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2008: Kids’ soccer!

This was the year that our soccer became really intense, at least for the parents.

Alex and his team walking off the field after escorting the San Jose Earthquakes and Los Angeles Galaxy onto the field at the beginning of their game.

Let’s start with one of the high points.

On the left, at the bottom left-hand corner, wearing number 5 on his shorts, the playmaking midfielder for the Santa Cruz County Breakers 97 Boys, our Alex. On the right, standing in white, unshaven, David Beckham, England’s own, formerly of Manchester United and Real Madrid, capped over 100 times for his country, a total soccer star.

In the same photo!!

The occasion was the MLS game which pitted Beckham’s Los Angeles Galaxy against our local San Jose Earthquakes at the Oakland Coliseum in June.

You may have noticed that small boys or girls now accompany the professionals on to the field at the beginning of all of their games. The Breakers, the youth club that both Charlie and Alex play for, somehow arranged for Alex’s team to walk out with the Galaxy at this game.

Now, that’s quite a memory!

Charlie in his Breakers sweatshirt, with Ean his friend on the Breakers from Happy Valley School. The binoculars come in handy at the very top of the Coliseum!

The four of us were all watching the game, of course: Alex, Charlie, Marie-Hélène and Ian, high up in the stands. The photo on the right is of Charlie and Ean, a friend on his team, before the game started.

Now the hard part of 2008: Charlie’s team did not have an easy year. It was very rough at times for the boys. Perhaps the seeds were sown over preceding years. The club had elected to promote two teams at their age, despite not having enough players to make two teams work.

The two teams came together in the fall, but that split up the boys who had been on each team and the vibes deteriorated rapidly. After a few games the Club let the coaches go. After that, several of the players left too over time, for one reason or another. Or maybe just because of the bad vibes. When things go wrong in a team, they tend to go wrong in a lot of ways.

This photo dates from January, when the vibes were still good and Breakers 95 White still had at least the 13 players in the photo and had won the first tournament of the year, the Mustang Invitational in San Ramon.

By the end of the fall season, the team were down to nine or ten players (a soccer team is 11, plus substitutes), with not enough players on the field, no goalkeeper, and no substitutes. That was the rough part for the boys.

We were so proud of Charlie for soldiering on through thick and thin. He wanted to quit too for a while, but he kept going. Hopefully, there are lessons in life here, and we think that he will remain as enthusiastic about the beautiful game.

But let’s examine that earlier little statement again: “the Club let the coaches go.” What were they thinking? Charlie had been coached by Paul Gooch since he was eight years old and got along very well with him.  Paul was an unpaid volunteer, practically, and had devoted years of his life to coaching boys for the Club. Whose interests were served by letting him go? Charlie’s? No way! Paul’s? Don’t be ridiculous!

The Club’s? Well, they must have thought so. They were the only possible winner here. But here’s the funny part: Paul’s son Lynden was the star of Charlie’s team. He left, of course, immediately after his father did, and began playing for the team that was that Breakers team’s lead rival, Santa Clara Sporting. Paul began assisting the coach at Sporting. By 2010, Lynden had been selected for the US Under 16 squad, that’s right, the pool of players from which are drawn the team that represents the entire USA! Tell me again, how did letting his dad go serve the Club’s interests!?

Alex’s team also won the Breakers Cup tournament in his age group. Here is an action shot of Alex taken there by Eric Price, a team parent. Thanks Eric! We can’t see the ball, but we can see that Alex had just taken a shot, and how!

While Paul and Lynden were still there, the team went on to make the quarter finals of State Cup again in the spring, for the last time, but we don’t have a lot of other pictures of them for 2008. The bad vibes ate up more and more of the atmosphere as the year went on.

They did win another tournament during the summer, the Breakers Cup held in Santa Cruz in early August, and the players showed real heart and character to do so despite the already increasing problems.

Moving onto Alex’s team during 2008, another Breakers team. In this age group, the Club only promoted one team for the year, as its 17 players confirm. The coaches ensured that everybody got to play in most games, and the boys were almost uniformly happy and psyched.

Here is Alex’s entire team for 2008, the Santa Cruz County Breakers 97 Boys, with their two coaches at Breakers Cup. They had a fun time!

The contrast with Charlie’s year and its two team arrangement was striking. Santa Cruz County is not large in terms of population, and modeling the Club on teams in areas of five or ten times the population needs to be thought through carefully. The result can be that there are simply insufficient players available who are up to the standards of the original one team.

One of the challenges facing youth soccer is paying for it all. There are coaching fees, referee fees, field rentals, uniform costs, tournament fees, not forgetting club fees! How do they all get paid? You guessed it, mostly by the parents! In one way or another. This was the year that player fees skyrocketed upwards, and the year featured significant raises for the coaches.

Parents also appreciate it when their children are selected for a competitive youth soccer team like the Breakers. Their appreciation turns into player fees for the Club. We can’t help but wonder some times if those fees don’t motivate the Club to turn one good team into two not-so-good teams. The Club explains that it prefers two teams in a year so that when the players get older and start moving on to other sports or interests, there is a large enough pool of players to fill the gaps. That’s a good argument, and sounds convincing. Until, that is, you see how badly the two team system works, constantly in our limited experience.

Here is another photo of Alex (thanks again, Eric!), this time lining up one of his trademark through balls.

Alex’s team tried the same two-team approach starting in 2009. It caused a lot of stress, with the Club initially trying to balance the two teams by constantly moving players backwards and forwards. A different approach to Charlie’s year, when each of the two coaches built the best team that he could, and a fierce rivalry developed, but equally unsuccessful.

Fortunately in light of the level of Club expenses, Alex’s team has great fundraising ability. The photo below shows this skill in action.

The concession stand was set up at Cabrillo College’s stadium for the Breakers Cup, and did a thriving trade throughout the competition. A few of the team moms banded together and cooked tamales which were then sold at the concession. Other parents put in a couple of hours or more setting up or serving the customers.

John Pak organized this concession stand, with help of course from other parents, and it paid a significant portion of the team’s expenses during the season. John is the tall guy in the back on the left as you look at the photo.

Great cooperation! Great teamwork! Great revenue!

We’re going to sneak into 2009 here, because in March 2009, Alex’s team deservedly won the 2008 edition of NorCal State Cup.

This was quite an achievement. There’s always a bit of luck involved in winning a long tournament with increasingly skilled teams. But after they pulled back from 1-0 down in the final at half time to win 2-1 at full time, well, you can imagine how good we all felt. Especially the boys!

A well-deserved moment of shared delight!

Here they are, in the drizzle after the game, positively gleaming. They’re number one!

Mark Hogenhout, their head coach, has had his say and is looking back at them from behind, facing the camera, as he moves on.

It was a great way to bring a difficult year’s soccer to a close.

Now, if ManUtd could just sort themselves out a bit!

Here are the other 2008 photo journal pages: Tom living in Paris, Alban out and about in
Santa Cruz
, Ian on a short visit to family in England, Maman, Papa, Charlie and Alex taking a long weekend down the California coast, birthdays and other special days in 2008, portraits in 2008 and, last but not least, the main 2008 journal page.