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A Year in the Life of Revolution

Prologue: On day one of Jude’s transition to Revolution in July of 2023, Coach Kirk told me he will get Jude to a point where he doesn’t get frustrated with himself for making mistakes. I was skeptical.

Into the Unknown

In the spring of 2023, our 10 year old son, Jude, approached us about playing football (or soccer as us feeble-minded gringos call it). It was not our first rodeo. It was a familiar pattern repeating. Jude becomes interested in a physical activity and he excels at the recreational level on athleticism alone. He transitions to club level and frustration mounts when he discovers that athleticism alone does not a superstar make. This time seemed a bit different. First, he was getting older and better equipped to meet the challenge. Second, two of his besties at school started playing with the 2013 non-Revolution club in Flagstaff and they were playing ALL the time at recess. It seemed like a genuine interest as opposed to a fleeting obsession. On top of it all, Erin and I realized that in today’s world time was running short if he wanted to continue down the competitive level in a sport. We were all in.

He played one spring season in a recreational league, crushed it, and was ready for the next step. He subsequently joins Flagstaff United (the other club in Flagstaff) at the tail end of the season, participates in the final tournament, and is excited to resume in fall. To help set him up for success and feed his hunger, the summer becomes soccer bootcamp. A few weeks of soccer camps, weekend trips to the fields, nearly daily trips to the church grass on Cherry Hill, and a season of AYSO summer league later and he is much improved at an individual level. He’s super excited to pick up where he left off with United and we are excited as well. Insert wet blanket: coaching change announced a week before the season starts. The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. I’ll spare you the details but suffice it to say, it is a hard no. WTF do we do at this point - the kid is finally ready to give it a real shot and the rug is pulled.

A dash of inertia and a huge lump of serendipity later we happened across Revolution. I always did have a soft spot for those Che t-shirts and the idea of starting a revolution. Joking aside and more importantly, I was instantly engaged when I read about the emphasis on possession-based training. It reminded me of the ideology my father espoused as the coach of my team when I was but a wee one. The big unknown was how Jude would respond to playing with a team that possesses both incredibly talented individuals as well as talented team players. The first couple practices were eye-opening. Well-organized, structured, and team-focused. I was sold, but it was difficult to read Jude. It was a stark contrast to the practices in which he had participated in his previous experiences. He didn’t say anything and we knew better than to ask. He seemed nervous and overwhelmed yet hungry and eager to prove his mettle. He started to slowly form bonds. The kids were welcoming and helpful. Then came the next nerve-wracking hurdle: the roster had grown beyond the size that they could send to competitions. They had to choose a primary team. We can’t be sure how he would have responded had he not made it into the roster, but we had our guess. Thankfully, we didn’t have to travel that road.

All signs are pointing north. He’s starting to feel a bit of camaraderie with his teammates; he’s a bit intimidated by the coaches but getting enough positive feedback to keep him engaged and maintain his enthusiasm. He’s doing well, even starting a few scrimmages here and there. Lo! Enter Sever’s. 

Into the Darkness

I remember Jude first mentioning to me that his heels hurt during English Soccer Camp in the summer of 2023. I blew it off. I recall him mentioning it again when he started with the 2012 Revolution team. I blew it off. The flare up sidelined him during a couple practices. I bought him heel cups. The flare up sidelined him in a game. Heelcup plus anti-inflammatories. He started complaining of ankle, knee and hip pains. I blew it off and chalked it up to anxiety and that he must not really want to play. By this point I already was familiar with the likely cause of his pain, but felt helpless. Lesson learned: don’t blow it off.

The first time Erin and I heard of Sever’s was in Revolution (yup – yet one more serendipitous outcome of the switch to Rev). It was in fact discussed at one of the first team meetings in September or October and is also on their website. It was an aha moment. The only catch was that all available material online about the disease that we encountered was fatalistic: it’s a growth related issue and other than treating the symptoms with heelcups, rest, meds, ice, and pushing through the pain, the only solution is to finish growing. The silver lining was that there was no long term damage associated with the pain. I interpreted the silver-lining as follows: if he really wants to play, suck it up and deal with the pain. I tried to be outwardly sympathetic, but he knew I doubted him and he called my bluff. He told me to take him out of soccer if I thought he didn’t want to play. Finally, and thankfully, after months of trying to treat the pain, Jude’s Coach gives a gentle nudge, suggesting that there is no harm in having him visit the orthopedist in the event that they can do something to help or in case it’s something other than Sever’s. 

Well, it was Sever’s, more formally known as calcaneal apophysitis. However, unlike the material we encountered online, the Doc was optimistic that Physical Therapy could help. I was skeptical. The PT, Kaitlyn Post from Northern Arizona Orthopedics, lifted our spirits even higher. I was prepared to eat a piece of humble pie with a side of guilt for doubting Jude. On the first day she did some tests (range of motion, flexibility, strength, etc) and all through the process explained not only why he is having pain in his heel but also the ankle, knee, and hip. It was all connected and it all made sense. His bones were growing, but his muscles and tendons were not keeping up. As a result, the alignment of all parts along his leg were out of whack, his feet were getting pulled outwards by the achilles, muscles compensating, etc, etc. There’s hope. It took a couple months of weekly visits, but it was markedly improving and the timing of the tournament in March couldn’t have been better. It would be the first opportunity to test his capacity. Moreover, since they were sending the non-primary team, it was fairly low stakes and low pressure.

Into the Light

The aforementioned tournament was a turning point for Jude. Yes, the team got beat, but it was the first time since the summer where we saw Jude going hard and fast for multiple games. He gave some thought to sitting out when he started to get tired and beat down, but a little man-to-man with the coaches’ got him back on track. The psychological weight of the injury was never so obvious as when he emerged from the dark tunnel. He’s once again hungry for tenacious tackles and bangers in top bins. Don’t ignore the signs.

Jude is roughly 9 months into his tenure with Revolution, so what can we say about our experience thus far? The word that encapsulates the last 9 months in what the cool kids call “Rev”: transformative. Bonds form organically between the players because of the emphasis on possession-based play. The coaches are tough but fair. They have high expectations. They want to win. They don’t patronize. They are constructively critical of all the kids - including their own - irrespective of their skill level. They don’t go easy on Jude just because he doesn’t like receiving criticism. But at the end of the day they are gracious, supportive, and motivational. They know full-well what the statistics say about making it to the professional level, but it doesn’t stop them from providing as many development opportunities as they can. They are proud to watch their boys bring home a win, but recognize the experience and growth that accompanies losing. They are not just coaches; they are leaders. And do you know how much they’re getting paid? $0. 

In the prologue I mentioned Jude’s inclination to frustration, so where is he now after about 9 months in the system? My skepticism in the coaches’ ability to change this behavior was, yet again, met with a small slice of humble pie. Jude rarely reacts instantly and viscerally on the pitch* to his mistakes as he once did. Sure he gets frustrated, but he stows it away. He keeps playing the game. He listens to the coaches corrections without obvious disdain and distrust. He respects them. Jude has matured in many ways on and off the field over the past year and I attribute much of it to this experience. There’s no telling what the future will bring for him, but the impact of Revolution has been immeasurable.


* “Field” for us feeble-minded state-siders

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