Sunday, May 5, 2013


"When you step out onto the field to play, remember that the other team is not the enemy."

That statement has stuck with me ever since the girls from the Lindenhurst U12 FUSION soccer team and I attended the LIJSL Convention. We were there to receive our Sportsmanship Award for the Fall 2012 season, and I nudged one of the players sitting next to me and said, "We need to remind the girls of that. It's important."

I whispered to one of the biggest and strongest players on our team, but I never saw her go out onto the field and use her size to deliberately hurt someone. The whole team was like that...and the attitude was so obvious that we won the Sportsmanship Award several times.

FUSION has always been a tenacious team, made up of girls who not only play with their minds and bodies, but also with their hearts. They have a love of the game and of each other. This group knows that when they step out onto the field, they are doing it with and for their soccer "family".

In the fall of 2012, our team took first place. Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy cut our season short, but up until then, FUSION was undefeated. Congratulations to us....but...what most people don't know is that we played many of our games with only ONE sub or NONE at all.

How did that happen? Before the season started, we had almost thirty girls at our try-outs. Another club approached us about merging...we knew that we could use some extra girls, and they were about to fold, so we agreed to help them out and try to keep as many of their players together as we could, because that's how FUSION rolls.

In the end, we decided to form two teams, the "regular" travel team that would play on Saturdays and a developmental team for Sundays...and all of the girls would have an opportunity to work with our trainer. This way, we'd keep the girls together and we'd have a pool of new players that were working constantly to sharpen their skills and eventually play on Saturdays again. No one would be "cut", and everyone would get to play soccer with their friends.

Thank you John Triessl for your creative idea and kindness.

Hundreds of poems and stories have been written about "crossroads" and "turning points". Unexpectedly, the girls U12 FUSION soccer team was faced with their first one. The developmental side was comprised of girls from our team and the other, and on Sundays, players from the travel group would rotate and fill in so we'd have enough bodies...but it was not to be.

Suddenly, the coaches/adults from the other club decided that if we didn't take their one girl we had placed on the developmental team, then we couldn't have any of their girls. This demand was placed after a few of our own parents also pulled their girls out of the sport, stating that we should have "left well enough alone" and not merged with the struggling club.

What we were left with was a skeleton of a team, BUT a core group like none I have ever encountered when I coached girls and boys basketball or in any of my years coaching soccer. We went on to have a tough, but tremendous season, taking home both the first place and sportsmanship awards for the fall of 2012.

The spring season shaped up a little differently.

We continued to play when it got cold, going indoors for the winter season. During that time, a few players got injured. We opened the spring season in Division 4 (up from Division 5) with my daughter in a wrist cast, followed by another injured wrist, a concussion, and some leg/foot problems.

Despite our lack of subs, we went into our games strong, and although we dominated most games, fatigue is a tough opponent, and we began losing for the first time in months. Our losses were only by one or two goals, but for some it's hard to look at the big picture, and due to frustration, we lost a player to another team.

I wish her luck, but I feel sorry for her. Yeah, I feel sorry for her not FUSION.

Remember the big picture? Here's my version: We played the entire spring season with either no subs or more commonly, one or two players short. We never lost by more than two goals. (I have seen other teams go out defeated before they start and they lose by five or six). We dominated all of the games and had the most shots on goal with the exception of one bad day...and after what this team struggled with, they were entitled to one bad day.

They never went out onto the field thinking that they are going to lose. They arrived early for the warm up, happy to see each other and laughing with the friends they had come to make over each season.

This situation brought them closer to each other, forcing a protectiveness that was obvious when our sweeper literally used her body as a shield between the opposing player and our keeper when she came out to retrieve the ball. I was moved when I saw the sweeper stretch her arms straight out to the sides, and her knees lock, daring anyone to come through her to get to either of our beloved goalies.

They showed loyalty to each other every time they came to practice and games, ready to do their best instead of giving up because things were a little tough. The standings do not necessarily reflect the real game.

They went out there to play, not to hurt others or take out their frustration with our losses on anybody. They learned to speak up for themselves when refs made a bad call, and they discovered their own strengths and weaknesses and what they are really made of.

We can teach them sportsmanlike behavior, but what these girls taught me is that when you lead with heart and strength of character, a loss doesn't look like a loss anymore.

Every game that they did more, gave more, and gained more skill and the ability to strategize, they won more than any score could ever reflect.

As we played, even if we were losing, I couldn't help but smile when I listened to the other team's coaches:
"Their defense is tight. We can't get a shot in."
"That goalie is awesome. There aren't many like her out there."
"They don't even have enough players and they're not making this easy."
"Watch that player! She's got a big foot! Don't let her shoot"
"Three of our players on only one of their girls, and she's blowing right through them!"

The FUSION team never went to war with the "enemy" when they stepped onto the turf. They were just a bunch of young girls getting together with their friends, to play a game that they love, to the best of their ability.

As with all setbacks and challenges, they are temporary. This will pass, and when FUSION is running on 100% again, they will be fitter, faster, smarter, and hungry for a win.

You have been warned.

On behalf of the coaches, I'd like to say thank you to the parents for allowing us time with your children. It is an honor and a privilege to be around them several days a week. I have no doubt that when they are done being some of the finest players LIJSL has ever seen, they will spread their greatness wherever their futures take them.

Have you faced your challenges with patience and a strong belief in yourself?

CF Winn is the award-winning author of The COFFEE BREAK SERIES, a hilarious group of short stories meant to be read while on break or in the waiting room of the doctor's office. Her first novella, SUKI, has been grabbing hearts and hugging souls all over the United States.

You can now order SUKI in paperback at BOOK REVUE, one of the nation’s largest independent bookstores, by email at or by calling (631) 271-1442. Learn more about SUKI at BOOK REVUE
More posts like these can be found at Humor Outcasts and The Patch where she is a regular contributor.

CF Winn is the founder of Winning! Publications, a firm specializing in editing and promotion services for authors. Her latest project is the just released Trailer Trash, With a Girl’s Name, a hilarious and heartwarming story of a boy saddled with a girl’s name and forced into a nomadic existence. Order it now:

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