Last weekend marked the first big tournament of the boys' soccer season. Though there are only a few throughout the summer, these tournaments are what the boys look forward to all year round.
Though they have league games all over the city and neighbouring regions every week during the spring, summer and early fall and exhibition games and in-house competitions over the winter, it's the tournaments that the boys are really training for and building up to for all those long winter months of practice and futsal and fitness and technical training. It's the tournaments that make the boys really feel like elite athletes. It's the tournaments that bring the players and parents and families together as a real team.
Tournament weekends are a gong show: families lugging coolers and camping chairs and sun shelters to and fro across acres of manicured grass, jockeying for optimal position at mid-field after fighting for non-existent parking spots after almost getting lost trying to find an unmarked out-of-the-way field somewhere way out of town, team benches and tents and banners to set up and break down and move from field to field all day long, sweaty children and tired siblings and endless bathroom lineups, the smell of barbecued burgers and the tinkling sounds of ice cream truck music filling the air and competing with cheers and calls and referee whistles from a dozen fields at once.
This year, since I'm managing both my boys' teams, I booked them both in the same tournaments. Two teams, two fields; two sets of registration paperwork, travel permits, rosters, player books; two tents, two banners, two benches to lung across acres of grass and set up and secure. Four games per team, eight sets of ref fees, sixteen game sheets.
I thought it might be easier to have both teams scheduled in the same place on the same weekend. It was insanity.
Though the tournament itself didn't start until nine o'clock, I had to be a the registrar's tent by seven to take care of paperwork. Then I had to lug both sets of equipment - tents, banners, benches and balls - to two separate fields, unpack and wrestle each of the twelve-foot tents into place and hang the heavy vinyl sponsorship banners off the tents in the sudden hurricane-force winds that popped up in the middle of a stifling hot summer morning.
My older son's coach didn't show up for one game, so as the only Ontario Soccer sanctioned body anywhere near the field, guess who had to step in and coach?
One of the tents blew right out of its tethers halfway through our game, turning itself into a sail that damn near carried me and one of the players onto another field where we would have taken out a good half-dozen nine year old girls in the middle of their game.
The two teams played at the exact same time on fields on opposite sides of the park, necessitating a lot of running back and forth with game sheets and paperwork.
And that was just day one.
But, despite everything, the boys had fun and played hard, and it was such a treat, as always, to come together as a team of players and families for our first tournament of the season.