Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Leif Playing Soccer - Japan & Hawaii - Ages 6-11

Leif started playing soccer at Camp Zama in Japan when he was only five or six years old. He was really good at it, especially playing goalie or fullback. Even that young it was amazing how far he could boot the ball, and unlike some kids, he wasn't scared when other kids rushed at him in the goalie box.

He played every year through his freshman year of high school. What I can't believe is that with all the photos we have I can't find any from the four years he played in the Chicago area, first with leagues and then on the freshman team at HighLand Park High School. I looked and looked. I even remember having the camera with me at games, and in Highland Park, many of those games were played in cold, damp or soaking wet nasty weather. I remember one game where the field had a couple of inches of icy water on it, with actual ice floating in it, and those kids still played!

He got an award for his play on the freshman team at Highland Park High School in Illinois. I remember at one game I was awed when he kicked a ball literally down the entire field over the heads of both teams, to one of his forwards way up there by the opposing team's goal. This teammate scored.

These photos span a five year period. The bottom one shows Leif in the black goalie shirt at Camp Zama, Japan in March 1981, when he was six years old. Above that are two taken in the fall of 1982 when he was seven-and-a-half, and the top two are from February 1986 in Honolulu, Hawaii when he was eleven years old.

Leif loved playing soccer and probably would have played on his high school varsity team and perhaps in college if we hadn't moved to Puerto Rico. We got there in August and the Antilles High School team was already practicing for the fall season. Leif went to try out for the team but the shock of coming from a chilly northern climate to weather that was 96 degrees and about 98% humidity. The coach had them running for miles without any chances to cool down or drink anything and Leif was an danger of heat exhaustion. He was coming home about to drop and I was worried about him. The coach refused to make any allowances for his change in climate so that he could adjust, or let the boys stop for a drink. The final blow came when Leif's soccer shoe sole came partially off during a run and he twisted his ankle so that he couldn't run for awhile. He was so discouraged and so upset with the coach that he quit the team. I was so sorry to see that happen, losing a sport he had enjoyed from 1980 to 1990, for ten years. I know he missed it. He went to the games and I could see that he longed to be on the field with his friends, especially Lenny.

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