Don and I started “Sunday Soccer” in 2009 when the boys’ fall soccer season came to an end. He casually asked the team families if they’d like to meet at Zilker park on Sunday at 2 for a pick- up game of parents and kids. I remember the first Sunday, only one other family joined us, and we had to pull strangers in from the sidelines to jump in. The second Sunday was not much better, and Don was almost ready to end it. But I said, “Just wait, once we have a ‘core,’ it will be fine.” And sure enough, over a year later, we certainly have a very special “core” of families each week, plus many others who feel the freedom to show up when their schedules allow.
I learned so many things from this whole experience:
1. Just start – There are so many people just wanting to do something fun and meaningful. Once we set the date, place, and time, others just had to show up. And they did.
2. Don’t quit too soon – Like I mentioned before, we would have missed out on so many great friendships if we had ended it early. We just needed to get that momentum ball large enough to roll itself.
3. Live Organically – I was burnt out on “programmed” living. This is simple, authentic, and fun. Everyone feels ownership of the group. Everyone feels like they can invite their neighbors (and often do!) People bring their own water and often beverages and snacks to share afterward. Don just sends out a reminder email each week and people come.
4. Always have room for one more – I am amazed at how welcoming everyone is. It’s probably just Austin culture in general, but this group is also over the top. I remember a boy named Christian. He was just at Zilker with his Aunt and Grandma one Sunday and asked if he could play with us. “Of course!” Well, the next Sunday, he showed up again, and all the adults individually welcomed him, asked him how his was doing, etc. He told us that he was just at home and asked his grandma what time it was – “Gotta go, Grandma, time for soccer!” Today a young adult, Micah was just riding by on his bike and asked if he could jump in. “Of course!” And we always keep an eye out for dads and kids who are just kicking the ball around, to ask if they’d like to join. We’ve gotten a few new regulars that way, too.
5. Protect Family time – What I have loved most is hearing how sacred this time has become for several dads and and their boys. It’s their time together. Sure, they could throw or kick a ball together in their own yard, but the structure of a game with others makes it more exciting. I’ve watched hundreds of plays where a dad will set up their child for a goal, or where a kid will have the confidence to challenge their parent. Kids grow in respect for their moms when they see her block a goal or send a ball down the line. Memories are made and bonds are strengthened. It’s special.
6. Live Actively – What I’ve noticed is that as parents of babies and toddlers, we are always up and down, chasing them or carrying them. And then they get a bit older, and we’re so tired that we decide to enjoy sitting and watching them run around now. But then we get used to sitting and watching. And we forget that we used to like to run around and play, too! So, I feel like Sunday Soccer was a catalyst to remind us all of that. Many parents have started running or exercising more after that first whip of game when they are wheezing and sore for 4 days after.
It’s been a gift. This time together has given each of us families many intangible magical gifts multiple times over.