Cor recently made a change in his life. He switched from playing on the school Soccer Team to running for the school Cross Country Team. In the grander scheme of things, the switch from one sport to another is not that big of a deal. Still, Cor agonized over the decision for several weeks this summer. He loved being a soccer player. He loved his teammates and his coaches. And there was a lot of momentum — established through youth leagues and through his first year of high school — for him to continue his involvement with the soccer program. However, he ultimately felt that the Cross Country program would be a better fit for him, going forward. And even though there are mixed emotions about the transition, I feel like this decision was an excellent opportunity for Cor to grow up. And I’m proud of the way he handled things.
For awhile, Cor thought about trying to do both Cross Country and Soccer. However, Marci and I felt that it would not be good for Cor, academically, to participate in two sports in addition to his studies. So we exercised our parental authority to take the two-sport option off the table… And then we left it up to him to decide. You’ll have to ask Cor, himself, if you want to hear all of the reasons for why he made the decision he did. But here is my parental analysis for the Costs and Benefits of his switch from Soccer to Cross Country.
The Benefit of Time
The time commitment expectations are pretty different for the two sports. Soccer requires two practices a day (5-6 hours per day), throughout the month of August; whereas Cross Country requires just one practice per day (2 hours per day). Especially for younger players, like Cor, the season schedule for Soccer often includes 6-8 games per week (divided among matches for Varsity, Junior Varsity A, and Junior Varsity B). Each game takes almost three hours (factoring in warm-ups, breaks in the action, and the game itself). So that’s 18-24 hours per week of game time, in addition to school. On the other hand, Cross Country meets only happen once or twice per week. And when Cross Country meets happen, we expect that the entirety of a meet (including Men and Women, Varsity and Junior Varsity) will be about three hours. So, just 3-6 hours of “game time” per week.
The effect is muted when practice times and travel times are factored in (roughly the same for both sports). Still, it seems realistic that Cor should gain at least ten hours per week that can be applied to his school work and other commitments. And that could make a big difference for him.
The Benefit of Stress Relief
In addition to the time savings, Cor seems like he will be saving himself some stress by joining the Cross Country team. Soccer is just a higher-profile sport, with a larger number of participants, so there feels like more pressure built into the activity. More pressure for teammates to outdo each other in order to earn playing time and more pressure for the team to win games. On the other hand, Cross Country seems like more of a collaborative sport. It’s mostly about each individual maximizing his own potential. Runners sincerely cheer for one another. And they just generally have more fun together. The group of long-distance runners on the Track team last spring became a close group of friends. And it’s appealing to create more space for those relationships to deepen.
The Benefit of of Contributing to the Team
In addition to all of the personal benefits, Cor’s switch to the Cross Country team also maximizes his opportunities to contribute to the team. Roosevelt’s Soccer Team is stacked with talent. Cor is really good at soccer, but he was probably going to be fifth or sixth on the depth chart at his position this year. The boys in our family tend to be “late bloomers” when it comes to physical development, and even at that he’s a full year younger than most of the other boys in his sophomore class (because of the way his academic level transferred when our family moved to the United States from the Netherlands). So with soccer, he’s always been fighting to overcome the perception that he’s “too small” for the sport.
With Cross Country running, however, Cor’s already (as a sophomore) looking to be fourth or fifth on the men’s depth chart — when most meets include four to seven Varsity runners from each team. So he stands to become an immediate contributor. He’s really good at running, too. He’s already proved himself in Track and in community races. And I think he’s only going to get better with time, training, and physical development.
The Cost of an Identity Crisis
Even with all of the aforementioned Benefits, there are still some Costs associated with Cor’s switch to Cross Country. In particular, Cor has always identified strongly with the sport of Soccer. He was born in the Netherlands, and he’s quite Dutch in his obsession with voetbal. He follows many different professional leagues. And he owns perhaps a dozen soccer jerseys from different teams. You might say it’s just part of “his brand.” But in the process of making his Fall sports decision, Cor came to realize that he can still be crazy about soccer even if he’s a Cross Country runner. He can still cheer for Ajax… and the Crew… and even for the Roosevelt Rough Riders.
Even though he’s had a long-standing relationship with Soccer, he’s always been something of a runner, too. He can be both a running guy and a soccer guy. And I expect he will be, too, for years to come.
The Cost of Relational Time
I think everyone in our family will miss the time we got to spend with other Roosevelt Soccer families. Those relationships have been forged over years of joy and pain. We’ve sweat together in the sun-soaked stands. We’ve shivered together in lawn chairs at weekend tournaments. I think especially of late-night indoor league games at NC Soccer Club… and post-game celebrations at Bellacino’s… and cheering at dramatic come-from-behind victories. Our boys have become young men together. And I’m sad that we just won’t have as much time together at Soccer stuff.
We still want to be friends with Soccer People! We still hope to come cheer for the team, whenever circumstances allow. And if anyone else ever wants to come and watch Cor at one of his Cross Country meets, his team schedule is online, too.
All in all, we’re happy for Cor with this new season in a new sport. All transitions have their Costs and Benefits, of course, but we’re looking forward to navigating this course.