LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — March Madness is long gone and the University of Kentucky’s successes for 2013-2014 are now another part of history. Despite some setbacks over the season, the young men’s team pulled together in the heat of tournament time and took fans on a nail-biting run to the NCAA Championship game. Aside from the disappointing loss in the final game, these freshman proved that determination and luck can surpass the predictions of even the most seasoned sports officials and “experts” in their field.
The late - but more than welcome - warmer temperatures now lure us from the TV set to the great outdoors where the spring sports programs are gearing up. The parking lots at the North Laurel Little League and Optimist Club are full of parents’ and grandparents’ vehicles gathering to bask in the joy of spring sports. The greening fields are dotted with children awaiting the thrill of competition and sportsmanship, while the yells from family and friends cheering on the teams echo in the country air.
For me, spring signals soccer games at the Optimist Club several times a week. Although focused primarily on Hannah’s games, I sometimes wander over to the smaller fields where children as young as 4 years old put on their gear and learn the basics of this sport whose popularity continues to grow and grow.
The teams comprised of 10 and older symbolize the skills of the game itself, offering different plays and techniques. The sighs of defeat and screams of triumph travel from the larger fields onto the accompanying playing areas during regular game times, although the fields and stands of the younger teams are often vacated as the weeknight contests for the older groups tarry on into the dark evening hours.
The younger groups, however, offer live entertainment of a different sort as the younger children chase after a ball that is nearly as tall as their legs are long. It is the spirit of competition and the basic game that prevails on these white-lined fields rather than the technicalities of whether a defensive player crosses into the offensive lines or offers up a “high kick.”