My 16-year-old daughter Scout was profiled in Chicagoland Soccer this week, about her interrupted soccer career at Lane Tech high school, and her disturbed soccer dreams.
The reporter asked her how she became such an aggressive player. “My dad played that older brother role,” she said. “We’d play sports all the time, and he never let me win. I always had to fight my way through.”
Actually, I started teaching Scout to be physical the day she came home from the hospital, with something I called “Baby Calisthenics.” It involved sitting her up against the couch cushion and letting her slump over and land square on her face. “See? You’re just fine! Now run it back again!”
I didn’t care if she played sports. But I wanted her to be tough.
When she was on training wheels, I’d have her ride beside me on five, 10-mile runs. We kept a tally of the number of crashes she had—the higher the number, the better—and debated afterwards, which crash was the best. (Best crash ever? A full-speed head-on collision with a deli’s chalkboard sidewalk sign that she somehow didn’t see coming.) We rode in all conditions. On a 20-degree bicycle sortie through the Morton Arboretum, my frozen-footed five-year-old can be heard in a video crying bitterly, “This is the worst day of my life.”
She was already playing soccer by then. Not knowing one damned thing about soccer, I took to showing her videos of Pete Rose, and telling her to play soccer like like that. She went on to become the first soccer player to steal second base.
When she was six, we signed her up for some training that was a little too serious for her age—who plays futsal at six?—and she got bored and wanted to quit playing. I heard myself telling her, “But honey, we’ve invested a lot of years in your soccer.” And then I burst out laughing at my own idiocy and told her of course she could quit. By seven, she enthusiastically came out of retirement, permanently.
My standard pregame pep talk her whole career has been, “Two things—have fun, and win! But if it comes down to a choice between the two—win!”
And if you ask Scout who is the more demanding soccer parent, me or her mother? Oh Mom, definitely.
Despite how hard Cristie and I have worked to make her hate both her parents and the game—well, it’s not that she loves soccer, it’s that she sort of is soccer. When she plays it … or just when she talks about it … she goes into a kind of artistic trance—a place of complete subject matter ownership that has a spiritual quality to it. It’s a place that many people don’t find in their whole lives.
As she told Chicagoland Soccer:
“No matter what is going on in my life, when I go out and play soccer, I just go out and forget about it all,” Murray said.
“I learned that early on. If something bad was going on at home or if I was in a fight with some friends, if I went and just played soccer, I could just forget all about it. None of that would matter.”
She wants nothing more than to play in college. In fact, she wants nothing other than to play in college. As family, we’re all in.
But the pandemic has complicated the process by canceling many games and tournaments, and postponing the many “ID camps” that Scout was supposed to participate in this summer to show her skills to college coaches. She’s left to email dozens of college coaches and send them this highlight reel, when she knows she could impress them more if they saw her in person—saw the whole person that she is and the attitude she brings. She’s heard back from some, not from others.
And to Scout’s slight embarrassment, I thought I’d share all this here, in hopes that someone knows someone else who ought to see it.
Also? I just wanted you to see it, anyway.
And in case you don’t wind up reading the whole Chicagoland Soccer article, I come off pretty well in it. Like the part where the writer explores the provenance of her name and Scout says her mother named her after Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, and I named her after my International Harvester truck.