Well, as many of you who know us are aware, I have taken an interest in my kid's sports/recreational activities.  I've spent many hours as a coach, assistant coach, shoe-tie guy, and equipment manager.  It's fun.  And rewarding.  I get to see the growth of not only my own kids, but the other little rascals as well.

I have the opportunity to observe their development on the field as individuals and as teams.  These kids on the squads I've coached are friends of my own children and children of my friends.  It is a special thing to see their personalities develop.

Presently I'm coaching a group of 2nd grade girls who've chosen the name of "Cowgirls" as their team moniker. 

I've coached a few teams thus far in my brief stint at kids' sports leadership; last year I had the pleasure of leading my son's team to an undefeated season.  Yet even with that success last year, coaching this Cowgirls team has been one of the most rewarding things I've done.  This group of girls has so much personality.  Their willingness to learn and desire to put out extreme effort continues to amaze me weekly.

When we started the season we really didn't know just how good we were.  There were individual athletes who we knew could perform at higher levels, but no one knew just how well the group would play together.  Each of these young ladies supports the others.  I believe that every player on the team has scored at least once - a first for many of them.  We're passing the ball, dribbling well, and playing great defense.  Our top scoring threats are happy to play defense or a passing position, and some of the players who've been timid or disinterested are now mixing it up in traffic.  Everyone has contributed to our season.

Well, if you're still with me here, you probably already know that in our 3rd game of the season we ran into another team of very good soccer players.  The Pink-Power team we faced off against handed us our first loss.  They passed very well, ran very well, and played defense very well.  Frankly, we were out-coached in that loss.  With our first two wins coming so easily we thought we could just throw the girls out there and let them go at it.  We had a lack of focus on defense, with our defenders far out of position.  We also did not have our line players - forwards and midfielders - in the best positions to suit their talents and help the team.

It was a learning experience.  Our girls learned that just because they're better athletes doesn't mean they'll always win.  After that loss, our practices were better, we started playing better positon soccer, and our passing improved dramatically.  The team became more focused (as focued as 7 year old girls can be) and played better as a unit.

Well, after the loss we ran the table through the middle of the schedule with easy victories over quality soccer teams, but our lone setback nagged at us.  Our girls wanted another shot at the Pink Power squad, and on Saturday November 10th they got it.

Our practice on the preceeding Thursday was the best of the year, working on positions and passing.  The girls played the coaches, and we worked at being in the right place at the right time.  By the time the windsprints were done, the Cowgirls were a fired-up bunch of 2nd graders.

When we took the field on the morning of the 10th, this was a different Cowgirl team than the one we had at the start of the season.  There were no dragonfly chasers, ladybug savers, or generally disinterested kids.  What we had was a team of young ladies focused on putting forth their best effort.  When the whistle blew for the kickoff, our girls were at their highest emotional and physical peak of the season.

The team's motto for this week was "Wings On Our Feet."

Within the first 60 seconds, the Pink Power girls knew it too.  They had easily dominated all their opponents this season, and they were having their backsides handed to them for the the first time.  The Cowgirls didn't score in the first period, but the Pink Power goalie was quite busy.  They did an excellent job of holding back a ravenous group of Cowgirls.

In the second period their defense was penetrated.  Ashlin put a goal into the net after a series of passing and pressuring the ball upfield led by Kelsey.  The Cowgirls went into halftime with a tenuous one goal lead on the unbeaten Pink Power squad.

The 3rd period opened after a quick power jolt of fresh cut oranges and a talk from moi on staying focused, continuing to play our positions, and a bit of defensive strategy.  The Cowgirls once again came out strong, with Lauren moved up to forward from the defender's positon.  Ashley pushed the ball upfield in front of the goal into the crowd of defenders and just like we practice, the ball popped out of the bee-hive and Lauren was in perfect postion at forward to whack it into the net.

2-0 Cowgirls.

The third period ended without any more scoring, and the Pink Power coach pulled his defenders, sending all 8 players at my girls in the 4th.  It was herioc defensive soccer in a hard fought game.  Two girls took shots to the face - Catherine on our team and a Pink Power player.  Both players were taken off the field, but both returned to the battle again.

The cliche goes that all good things have to come to an end, and this game did just that.  It ended up a 2-0 Cowgirls victory.

It would have been nice to have gone undefeated for the season, yet I think our loss put us on the right track.  We learned from it - to not be over confident and to play better soccer.  It made this game more fun too, with our girls (and coaches) anticipating a rematch with a tough team.  If we had been victorious the first go-round, this would have been just another game.  Instead it was a rallying point that made us stronger - as individuals and as a team.

I'm so very proud of the young ladies on our Cowgirl team.  They earned this victory with their hard work & hard play.  There was no quit in them, and (assuming they win this coming Saturday - we will be prepared!) they've captured at least a shared league title.

Individual efforts are as follows:

Catherine - Great Goalie work in the first half & great midfield & forward work in the 2nd.  Played through an injury too.

Hailey - Great work at center-midfielder and defender and froward.  She was everywhere.

Kelsey - Fabulous defense & pushing the ball upfield as a midfielder.  Set up Ashlin's goal with work moving the ball into position.

Natasha - Wonderful work at staying on the ball at midfielder and controlling the tempo at center-midfielder.

Marsha - Great work in goal in the 2nd half, and at forward.  Tenacious in going after the ball the entire game.

Olivia - Always there, mixing it up.  kept the ball in opponent's zone.  Played exceptional defense in the 2nd half.  Always with a smile on her face.

Lauren - Pressure, pressure, pressure = goal!  Played great defense in 1st & 2nd halves too.  Perfect position to score.

Ashlin - Automatic - weaved through the defense & scored.  Great defense too.  Difference maker from first game! (wasn't there for that one!)

Katelyn - Game Ball winner!  Played her best game of the year, and was stellar in the deciding 4th period.

Ashley - Great in goal for the 4th and final period.  Set up Lauren's goal in the 3rd with excellent effort in traffic.

Thanks to all these girls for their effort, and to their parents who have been so supportive this year!