This past youth soccer season was a unique one for our family because Gavin and Aidan's ages aligned such that both of them could be on the same team. There are obvious practical benefits to this as a parent: you have half as many practices and matches to attend, infinitely fewer schedule conflicts to deal with, and only one team patch to design (if you're like me and simply can't make yourself stop doing that):
Fortunately, the benefits weren't limited to solely the practical ones. The Soccer Rockets (as the team was called) was a great group of kids from highly varied soccer backgrounds. It's pretty normal for coaches' kids to bring a good deal of experience to the field, and this was certainly the case for my boys and my assistant coach's son. Offsetting this were several players who'd never played the sport before, each bringing different levels of general athleticism, "coachability", natural hustle and aggression, etc. to the field. It was great to see all the players growing in their individual skill levels over the course of the season. But as I think back on the Soccer Rocket season (which, by the stats, was a pretty mediocre one), I'm thrilled by the evidence of the early stages of true team play.
At this age level, I'm pretty happy if I can get the players to pass the ball much at all. There's still such a tendency to want to keep the ball until it is taken off your feet, and to a point, that's no bad thing. As a coach, I want to tread carefully when instructing so that passing is understood as an advantageous and intentional offensive tactic, not just something you do when you're too scared to hold onto the ball yourself. Fortunately, several of the players "got it" and were starting to work in pairs and threesomes to move the ball around the field together. More surprising to me was that these young players (and these are kids under nine years old, mind you) were also beginning to openly communicate with each other on the field -- giving helpful direction to each other on set pieces and throw-ins, calling for passes, and so on.
So once again, another season gets filed in the history books, and we look forward to enjoying the summer break before doing it all over again in the fall, when Gavin will age up into the U11 (boys-only) league, and we'll be back to two practices and two games per week as a family. The single-team thing was definitely good while it lasted!