So, first challenge under my belt! Broken the seal, done the deed, challenge accepted and fulfilled. Feeling pretty good right now, even if my ball control needs a little work; but more on that later!
So, challenge number 1 was not something I saw coming. The ladies of the Irish Examiner/Evening Echo Women’s Soccer Team challenged me to attend a training session. Cue cold sweat.
So, what if I have never kicked a ball before in my life? Who cares if the nearest I have come to a game of soccer is wandering through the living room when someone else is watching the world cup? It was fine, absolutely fine. I wasn’t freaking out or anything, the words “abject” and “humiliation” were not on a constant loop in my head. What had I let myself in for??!
I took a deep breath, found my inner Queen B and decided that research was the way forward….after several hours with a soccer-mad friend I had a good handle on the game and could even take a pretty good stab at the off-side rule. Add to that two viewings of “Bend it like Beckham” and I was pumped.
I rolled up wearing my Lizzies and feeling apprehensive but excited – I did warn you “Never kicked a ball before in my life!” It was a beautiful evening, we had had a few showers earlier in the day but as the afternoon rolled around the sun was shining and there was nothing threatening on the horizon, for pathetic fallacy it boded well!
I met Mary, the lady who so kindly extended the challenge and was instantly feeling better. She, along with her team mates were so lovely and inclusive. Then I met a man who was going to feature heavily in my transition from soccer first-timer into full blown novice (I flatter myself!) – Coach Greg. A man so energetic and enthusiastic you couldn’t fail to have some of it rub off. I found myself looking forward to getting stuck in. By now all the other girls had arrived, and the whistle was blown to start our training session!
We warmed up with a drill called “shadowing”. One dribbles the ball and you follow as best you can. So many things went through my mind at this point, the top three being; 1. Do not fall. 2. Do not run into anyone else. 3. Do not fall. For the record, I didn’t fall. Result.
We broke into pairs and did laps, I was running with a lovely girl and as I am happy running I felt pretty good I didn’t let the side down on this one!
The best drill had to be what I am calling the “The Game of Thrones Wall Drill” – succinct. People stood on the edge of the pitch, forming The Wall. You then had to dribble the ball from one side of the pitch to the other, avoiding the Evil Ball Snatchers, in order to score a goal. The genius being that you could use The Wall if you got into trouble to pass the ball to and get it back, thus furthering your advance and enabling you upon your Quest…erm..for a goal. I was rubbish. Absolutely, appallingly rubbish, but it was brilliant. Everyone was running, shouting, roars of “Use The Wall” were to be heard several counties over. Would have happily spent another hour on that one, but no. Ladies. I had a game to play.
Okay, so in the spirit of honesty, I was not any good. Would love to say I propelled my team to glory and in the dying seconds managed to score the decider, but whilst I truly tried my best and made what I hope were valiant efforts not to mess anything up for my team, well, let us just say – I had never kicked a ball before in my life.
But all was not lost! Do not give up on me just yet. One more drill to go and I was making a come back!
Goalie training. This one is fairly self-explanatory. There was a goalie and we needed to kick the ball past her.
So, my turn rolled around, I braced myself, focused, became one with the ball, gave it what I hoped was a decent thump and the ball moved, I would say, 6 maybe 7 inches. As I was taking a deep breath and mentally preparing my “I will just get my coat” speech, I felt something happen. I felt a hero take to the pitch. I felt all my soccer dreams come together in one perfect moment. I felt the time was about to come – where I would be taught how to kick a ball.
Cue Coach Greg, bounding up with his can-do-attitude and saint-like patience. After a quick tutorial, a couple of pointers and some encouraging looks from my outstanding team mates I took to the spot once more. Foot connected with ball and flew, like an eagle past the goalie! I was on top of the world! Whilst my achievements are a little on the meagre side (I am no Ronaldo and never will be) I couldn’t believe I had done it.
This challenge took me out of my comfort zone, made me face up to skills I have sorely neglected and gave me a serious respect for the ladies of the Irish Examiner/Evening Echo Women’s Soccer Team. You just couldn’t beat the camaraderie and it was so much fun.
With the glow of my goal still resonating, I gave back my jersey and took my ball home. Challenge completed.
For those of you, who like me, are “football challenged,” I enclose my own personal guide on How to Kick a Ball. Ladies, it changed my life.
- Do not kick with your toe (Who knew??!)
- Kick with the side of your foot
- Do not lift your weight up
- Pick a target
- Go for it
You are welcome.
The Irish Examiner/Evening Echo Women’s Soccer Team play in Division One of the Cork Women’s Soccer League. They are already through to the second round of the Cup and play every second week in The Farm in Curraheen, Cork City. If you would like to get out and support these fantastic ladies their next League match v Riverstown is on Wednesday May 21st at 7pm in Glanmire. If you would like to learn more about Fixtures and Women’s Soccer in Cork, email Mary White: firstname.lastname@example.org