The soccer community on Bainbridge Island is one of the best you could ask for as a coach, a player, and a member of a soccer family (all of which I have been at one point or another). In sports, for every tragedy there are thousands of success stories. Every goal is a reason to cheer without inhibitions, every victory is a reason to smile, accomplishing your goals, getting scholarships, growing as people and as athletes; those are all things are celebrated within our tight and strong soccer community.
It's been a little while since I posted anything, so as I make my first post in over a month, I want it to be meaningful.
There was this man who was slight, wiry and wore a skull cap on cold winter nights. He has shockingly kind eyes, a soft and genuine smile and is never out of kind things to say or encouraging words. He played out on the high school fields with the rest of the Bozo Ball crew several times a week. He was always welcoming of new players and treated all ages and skill levels as if they were the same. He had seen multiple generations of young Bainbridge soccer players cycle through and come back years later to play on the same field they watched their parents play on as little kids and that they had showboated and been humbled on as teenage players. He's seen the full circle and has influenced many people along the way. He no longer graces the field with his excellent touch and quick feet. The midfield seems empty without "Speedy" coming to rescue you from the fine predicament you've dribbled yourself into. His positive radiance was missing. Consecutive absences of his went noticed by our soccer family.
Inquiries revealed that he had been diagnosed with aggressive brain tumors and was running out of time. How on earth do you capture so many years of memories? So many smiles, so many goals, so much laughter. How do you even begin to commemorate the football career of a man who was a role model, a friend, a father, a player, a teacher and a loving and kind soul? How can we express our gratitude for his patience, his positive attitude, his passion for the game and for the members of the soccer community? The way that my soccer community rallied in this time of hardship and grief made me proud to call them my friends and family. A scrapbook was to be made and it was to include photos of every regular "Bozoer". Along with their photo, they could write a note that would go in a page in this book.
This entire process, although a painful reminder of the loss of a dear friend and talented player, was an incredible way to come together to heal and to celebrate the amazing person who had been such a valuable member of our community for such a long time. The camera will never lie, and the moments that were captured made me realize that not only were we so, so lucky to have this man in our lives for the time that we did, but he was also lucky to have us.
Life cycles extremely fast in this soccer community. Men who used to come out with their wives and young children now go head-to-head with the sons they coached and are jokingly sent to the geriatric side. The little kids who used to sit on blankets and color or read are now among the players on the field. New people come and go, no matter how long you're out injured or away at school you're always welcome back with warm smiles and plenty of banter about how out of shape you've gotten or how you've lost your touch. Friendships that extend well beyond the white lines of the soccer field are formed and lives are changed for the better all because of this amazing family and this amazing game. This recent pause we've taken to look up from the ball at our feet and see just how much everything is changed and just how lucky we are to have what we have has been a great thing for this community. This hasn't been the first hardship we've had to face as a team and as a family and it won't be the last but anyone who was involved with this recent celebration of life and of a long, successful football career has surely realized that no matter what happens on or off the pitch, this family is here for you and will help you do whatever it takes to reach your goal.