LANDSTOWN – I never knew a life lesson could come in the form of a soccer shirt.
My husband and I are adopting a 13-year-old girl. Our daughter decided to play indoor soccer at the Virginia Beach Field House. I signed up as her coach and picked up the players who were not assigned to a team.
About half – including my daughter – had never played organized soccer.
The recreation league did not have enough teams. It folded, but Dustin Rutz, a Field House sports director, helped put our team in a different division.
I was excited our team could still play, but I also was worried the other teams were much more experienced. Our first game proved it. I stopped counting after the other team’s 15th goal.
However, our team never quit. Goal after goal after goal, these kids ran to the ball. They hustled and cheered each other on.
The final score of our next game was 18-0, and Trip Fitch, the other coach, was doing all he could not to run up the score. He emailed me two weeks later.
“Your kids were hustling all over the field and playing extremely hard, even though many are new to soccer,” Fitch wrote. “Despite the score, your kids were smiling, and I just hope they keep that passion for the game.”
He wrote he wanted to do something “to help remove some of the sting of the results.” He wanted them to keep playing, building the life skills that come from teamwork and competitive sport.
Fitch had jerseys made complete with our team name – Blue Crush – on the backs, as well as numbers and a logo on the sleeve.
He even made shirts for the coaches. When he realized we had some of the tallest boys in the league, he went back and printed larger shirts.
I have never had a stranger do anything like this in nearly two decades of coaching.
Fitch and his son, 12-year-old Rex, visited our next game at the Field House. We distributed the shirts to the team. I told the players what Fitch said about their perseverance.
Our team was – and remains – moved by the gesture. One of the players told me the jerseys made it feel like we were part of a real team.
Fitch, 45, lives in Kempsville. He has coached all three of his sons. His father usually coaches with him. Fitch believes sports teaches powerful lessons – socialization and cooperation, among them – that young people may not recognize while they play.
We finished off our season with seven losses and no wins. We did score two goals. Often, Fitch seemed to be around to encourage our players and tell our coaching staff good job.
I signed up to coach the Blue Crush so my daughter could experience organized soccer and learn what it means to be part of a team. We came away from this season with much more.
Our ragtag team of teens showed what it means to never quit. Our record may not show it, but this was a winning season
Thanks to Coach Fitch, we even have the shirts to remind us.