If you think a hike to the Pesuta will test your mental endurance, I invite you to attempt the islands-wide tradition of Soccer Saturday. It will challenge you to the depths of your psyche – spirits normally reserved for moments of basic survival. And it all happens here in Tlell.
When we arrive at the soccer fields, the sky has deceptive clear spots, much like the spectacle of soccer about to unfold. Everyone is there. Little people in various states of disarray are gathered into like colours and unleashed on the field. Something primal stirs in me — competition has begun. Friends and neighbours, even family, suddenly become foes. The smaller ones flock around the ball in circling patterns, patterns that reveal the outer organization and inner chaos of the universe.
They score! Not our team. My heart constricts a little.
This pain is suddenly magnified when the skies open and cold droplets like bullets bore into my left side, freezing much of my executive function. The sting is palpable. I curse the Gods of Organized Sports (incredible volunteers who do so much to give our children, and myself, this valuable experience). For a moment, I find I can’t endure. Then the sun cheekily makes an appearance, promising warmth, only to hide again behind the clouds with a giggle.
Our team scores! Pride, gratitude and triumph swell my heart. The children run on, the heat from their small bodies creating the most perfect viral breeding ground in this varying weather. Did you bring your tissues? Chewable vitamin C?
Soccer Saturdays are a right of parental passage on Haida Gwaii. You start as a wide-eyed newbie. You don’t think about the water bottle, the orange slices, the extra clothes, a hot drink for yourself, or the camping chair. You marvel at the veteran parents. It’s like an ancient ritual, nomadic tribes congregating and making camp for the day. Their camping chairs have an integrated canopy to keep off the sun and the rain. They have eyes on the back of their heads to watch all their three kids play in different divisions at once.
At least this year that’s actually possible. I’ve heard horror stories of days of yore (okay, last year) where one child played in Masset and another in Sandspit on the very same day! Now that is a feat of parental time and resource management rarely seen. Then there’s the single-child families. One game and done. There’s an audible, envious sigh as those families gather their one child and head back to their Saturday, where they will actually be able to get another something done.
Everywhere surrounding this spectacle are the children-not-playing-soccer-at-the-moment. Young children who have not yet grasped the gravitas of the soccer game, siblings waiting for games to finish that they care little about. They mill about, on the play structure, up the sandy cliffs, and into the forest — it’s Lord of the Flies in action. Parents periodically scan the area hoping for a glimpse of their “other kid,” and when they don’t see them, they simply remind themselves to look again in 15 minutes.
This year, Soccer Saturdays are all to be held in Tlell. In many ways this makes the volunteer effort more effective, and scheduling for parents far more doable. And if the Tlell Soccer Fields is to be the place, it makes sense to invest in more infrastructure for that area. Imagine covered stands for the upper field — the lower stands being a thing of envy to the parents of the younger divisions — better concession facilities, a beach volleyball court… There is community funding available that can be used to benefit all islands communities with soccer-age children (there are many of us) in this way.
Email me with your ideas! The psychology of comfort is a thing, too. It would allow us to marvel at our growing children without the distraction of basic survival. Imagine noticing and appreciating how they learn over the years that if you play your position well, and support the other players, the team is much more effective. Now that’s a psychological lesson that can’t be beat.