To Chase a Dream
To Chase a Dream
THE NEW FAMILY PASTIME
Me, Deanne, Pete, Dean and Dan get ready for our first season in Edina, MN.
Baseball was supposed to be my passion.
It certainly was our family passion. We're Chicago Cubs fans. But, the Cubs being what they are, perennial "lovable losers," maybe it was divine mercy that directed me somewhere else. Maybe it was dumb luck, or maybe it was for another reason I wouldn't understand until almost two decades later.
But, at age 5, soccer became my game. Our family moved for the second time in what would be five times to accommodate my dad's career, a move that dropped all of us in suburban St. Louis, where my dad looked to register his kids in a baseball league.
In our family of four boys and a girl, sports always were a big part of our lives, and I was the middle child, which meant I was right in the middle of everything. We had a lot of energy and sports weren't only a way to burn off all that energy. They also were the vehicle our parents used to get us kids acclimated to a new town and to make friends in those new towns. It became our routine. We'd move in and my dad would sign us up for baseball, often before we'd finished unpacking. It was pretty effective, and I guess it was lucky for my parents that all of us kids loved sports.
But this time, in moving to Collinsville, Illinois, nine miles from St. Louis, my dad was about to be thrown a curve ball. He drove to a park where youth sports volunteers had set up card tables. It was the fall, and he asked what sports they offered. They said soccer. He said what else?
My dad's only recollection of soccer was from his high school days, back in the 1950s at Amundsen High School on Chicago's North Side. "Foreigners" used to play it around the school fields, and my dad and his friends poked fun at them because they wore short pants and communicated in foreign languages. Andy Kapsalis was a great athlete who loved basketball, baseball, and football. Way back then, in his youth, and as he stood there at the soccer league registration table in Collinsville, he thought, what kind of sport doesn't involve catching the ball?
He would, of course, change his mind completely in a few weeks, going on to help establish youth soccer leagues, helping my mom create a highly successful soccer retail business, and becoming one very enthusiastic soccer fan. But, at that moment, in Collinsville, kids' baseball leagues were six months away, and he wanted his kids to play an organized team game immediately.
He figured soccer was a team sport in which we could burn off all that energy and make friends. He registered his kids right there. Like many of my dad's instincts, he was right.
Almost immediately, my mom went out and bought a soccer ball. We inflated it, tossed it in the back yard and started kicking. We didn't know the rules. My parents didn't know the rules, but we knew how to kick a ball and after a few days, we set up a crude soccer pitch in our back yard, using t-shirts and cones - whatever we could find - to mark goals. Being brothers, we pounded the snot out of each other and, playing every day, slowly became decent players. My dad even joined us on weekends and one Sunday, broke his ankle. Even that wouldn't dampen his love for the game.
We also started playing hockey, but soccer was my first sport. I remember wanting to play all the time, totally absorbing everything coaches were dishing out. Love at first kick. The running, being outdoors on beautiful green grass, the high-level of teamwork, the grace, the power, the struggle, the competition - all of it resonated deep inside me and brought me such joy and release. I suppose it's the same way with a lot of folks when they find their calling: musicians and painters, writers and scientists, teachers and mathematicians. They must feel it in