Saturday, May 21, 2011
STILL MORE WORK TO DO
Natalie dashed off from the car, kicking her soccer ball up and over the grass berm that surrounds the Warren Community Center soccer fields. FLD Gus and I attempted to follow at a more controlled pace.
As we topped the rise, Gus saw the neon-orange jerseys of the Cheeto-Crushers warming up in the far field and let me know that, in spite of taking time to taste-test the long, damp grass (and occasional dandelion), he was eager to reach the U10 (under 10-years-old) team.
I wasn't having any of that. We had plenty of time before the start-whistle to work on loose-leash-heeling; we backwards-walked almost all the way.
"Is that a new dog?" Coach Corey asked as we finally circled behind the near goal. He was running drills with the Crushers, his orange-tinted hair glowing in the unexpectedly warm Saturday morning sun.
N-n-n-no, I stammered, startled. I had already responded to the "Oh my gosh is that Gus? He has really grown!" comments at Nat's Monday night game over two weeks ago. (The Cheeto-Crushers first met FLD Gus last fall when he was just a tiny pup.)
|Nat and a much-younger FLD Gus at a game last fall.|
"I just wondered," he said. "That one is pulling more than usual."
I was embarrassed. Yep. Gotta love adolescence! (Sound familiar?)
Once situated on the sideline, FLD Gus settled nicely at my side. The Cheeto-Crushers did a good job adoring him without petting him--this is one group of kids (and parents) who will know what to do when they encounter a handler with his or her Leader Dog.
|FLD Gus, ready to watch the game.|
The brilliant sun continued to warm things up as orange and blue jerseys matched up and took the field. At the opening kick, Coach Corey called all parents into a huddle.
Sports can build confidence and teach youngsters a lot about fair play, teamwork, and the pure joy of physical activity, but if you've ever attended an organized sporting event for kids, you might have been dismayed at the obnoxious behavior of some sideline parents. Organized sports can also damage a young person's self-esteem.
Not so for the Cheeto-Crunchers, thanks to Coach Corey.
"I've got enough Silly String for each of you," Corey said. "Be ready to squirt them at the end of the game." Everyone grabbed a can and started back to their chairs, but he wasn't through with us yet.
"I think it is important that the girls know YOU are paying attention to them, not just me. So. You will also give a can to your daughter, AFTER you tell her one fantastic thing you saw her do on the field."
"Alright!" someone exclaimed. During the game I heard parents (and Coach Corey) applauding any outstanding move, even if completed by the opposing players. Nice.
By the first water break, FLD Gus had scooched his way around behind my chair to find a spot of shade. Smart puppy.
|It is hard to be a black Lab on a hot, sunny Saturday morning. FLD Gus finds some shade.|
The Cheeto-Crushers kept their opponents scoreless, and after six or seven of their own goals, Coach Corey instructed his forwards to stay behind the mid-field line to give the other team a break.
When the ref blew the end-of-game whistle, parents jumped up to form a congratulatory tunnel. The two teams slapped hands at mid-field and charged through, Cheeto-Crushers met with blasts of Silly String.
|Natalie and fellow Cheeto-Chrushers getting blasted with Silly String.|
FLD Gus remained calm during the flurry.
|FLD Gus isn't sure what to think about being covered in Silly String, but, he is still relaxed and calm.|
WHAT I TOLD NATALIE
Watching these young girls over the years develop into coordinated athletes is thrilling.
I whispered, You were the only player on the field waving your arms to let your teammates know when you were open. You have a great sense of the flow of the game and fantastic anticipation--like when their goalie threw the ball out, you got it more often than they did. When you take off with the ball, WOW, it's like you have afterburners!
|Natalie, in control of the ball and directing play.|
I had a hard time keeping to just one thing.
Oh...and great goals! It was so cool when you were on defense and took the ball from your goal all the way down the field and scored! (She scored twice.)
With a grin to melt your heart, Natalie snatched her can of Silly String and joined her teammates in the fracas.
WHAT I TOLD FLD GUS
Good boy, Gus! And brushed off Silly String residue.
|FLD Gus covered in Silly String and putting up with the fun!|