You and I have met only a couple of times, during last winter's clinic at Tyngsboro Indoor Sports. I wanted you to know the following as it is a reflection of what you have laid out as your personal, and also the Benfica club's, philosophy on soccer (and sports in general)
It was at that clinic that * talked to my 8 year old son, *, and then to me about joining the team. I was hesitant about having * join a U11 team at his age and ability. Melissa was absolutely terrific and encouraged me to ask each and every question I had, without ever appearing even the least bit frustrated or condescending.
One year makes a big difference in body control and ability. With some kids more than two years older, I was concerned at the outset of the season. My 'superstar' (tongue in cheek) on the recreational field was one of the weakest players - I thought - for Benfica. But I had read your letters on Benfica's philosophy, so I said nothing and just watched.
Week by week his confidence built. Still not nearly as skilled as some of his teammates, he maintained he was having a "blast" and loved his "club team". After one practice, he spent more than an hour researching the Portuguese site. He volunteered during one practice to play in goal and "Coach Norris" started using him in the next game.
But * wanted to be "A Goalie" not "THE Goalie" (haha). He was not concerned at all when I said I would e-mail Norris and tell him that. Instead of worrying that the coach would be mad at him (which would have been his former mindset), he said, "Coach is there to help me get better at what I want to do, too. He won't be mad." wow.
When he made saves, he was ecstatic. When he got his first goal, he celebrated. And, finally, at the tournament, Norris was all teeth and smile when * got three goals - his first Benfica "hat trick" - what fun as the entire team congratulated him (a testament to the philosophy - but not nearly as terrific as when the other team's coach approached * after the game and told him he did a great job - as a sportsman.
The other coach expressed his admiration for our team's behavior, calling out that * had said 'sorry' after knocking down an opposing player (the ref didn't see it) and double checked that the player was okay during the half time break. The other coach said, to me, that behavior in teams like ours doesn't just happen and that I should know that. That behavior was a testament to our coach and our team philosophy.
*'s Dad and I went back and forth during the season, wondering if the club experience was right for * and our family (it is indeed a commitment). After seeing the team shine in so many ways during the season, and after your end-of-season letter, we will absolutely see you at try outs. He can't wait.
Many, many thanks for continuing to make sure all parents and kids know that this is about what they will all become, as soccer players, sportsmen, and people.