Saturday, June 13, 2009

NISL Origins Part Three

Now about the actual soccer seasons that I have experienced: I really have two different experiences with league play. I have played in two different leagues: NISL and PAC. Now NISL stands for Nipawin Indoor Soccer League (I think I mentioned that in my first entry) and PAC stands for Prairie Athletic Conference (I think), and these are two totally different leagues. NISL is a fun league that is locally run and has teams from Nipawin and Tisdale come out every Tuesday to play. It is organized by volunteers and is a great way to get out of the homework routine and into a physically fit specimen in no time at all. I have played in this league for two years now, once as the keeper for Expired Milk and then this year as the keeper of the Screeching Eels. Yes, two totally different teams in all respects, but I managed to play with one of my original teammates this year: Joe Woodard. I will tell you more about him later.
Why were these two teams so drastically different? Well, Expired Milk finished second last for the league last year (we had the tie breaker at the end of the season) and the Screeching Eels finished third in the league this year and swept the sixth, second and first place teams in the playoffs to take home the trophy and the glory. Ya, drastically different, but they were both excellent teams to play on.
I guess I may as well tell you about the players on my teams. Besides myself as the keeper, the Expired Milk had eight players, and I will include a short bio on each of these players so that you know more information that you won’t need to know.
§ Hannah Wahlstrom: She played defence for us and did a decent job of it; got less scared of the ball as the year went on.
§ Brianna Shore: Played forward and filled in for me when I got hurt; she had to leave after the first semester to go and get married. I think she scored a couple of times if my memory serves me right.
§ Sara Beuckert: Played defence and was mighty fine at stealing the ball from opposing forwards. Probably one of the best female defenseman in the league.
§ Joe Woodard: The six foot five giant was also my king shot blocker. Many nights he came back to the dorm with soccer imprints and bruises. A rock defensively and one of the hardest workers in the league.
§ Austin Stickel: Played with us for the second semester and added much speed to the team. It also lightened the load on offense from Josh Ives, and they worked pretty well together.
§ Doug Robinson: Played only a few games because of an ankle injury, but he has a cannon of a shot and it’s pretty accurate as well. Won the shootout winner in a playoff match against Tisdale, officially putting us into the playoffs.
§ Jon Kullman: Played forward for us during the first semester before going back to B.C. He had a decent shot and was the one that grabbed the ball out of the air when Matt Thiessen smoked me.
§ Josh Ives: The offensive powerhouse for our team; also the quickest and hardest working for last year. Won the leagues Most Improved Player award last year and his teams MVP award this year. With out question, he deserved both.
So then, there is our team last year. Most of the time we played with one sub, so we got pretty tired after the two games we played. This was also thanks to our lack of experience, skill and knowledge of how to play the game, although by the end of the season we were the most improved team and played much, much better together. We had lots of fun and were cheered on greatly, which in turn made us play harder against opposing teams. Actually, we played some pretty close games throughout the year and nearly upset major teams, but we were overcome with weariness and yielded to their awesome skill.
My team this year was much more skilled (I hate to say that, but we were), as all of us had played soccer before. What’s that, who was on the team this year? Well, if I have to tell you…
§ Josh Braun: The MVP of the league and top-scoring player. He blocks tons of shots, can kick accurately and powerfully and never gives up on a play. Played defence and was dang good at it (did I mention he won the scoring title from defence!). Josh was also was the goon of the team.
§ Joe Woodard: Yes, the giant returns and is better than last year. He missed more games because of injury and illness, but he still blocked a ridiculous amount of shots and shut down some of the best players in the league with frightening consistency.
§ Jenna Clark: Got voted as the Best Defensive Female and deserved it more than anyone else in the league. Looks way too calm when she’s playing, but is slick and has a cannon of a shot.
§ Tim Schellenberg: One of the sneakiest ball handlers in the league and very quick. He can cut a ball in the total opposite direction without moving his body and set up many goals throughout the year.
§ Heidi Schellenberg: Wife of Tim and is a top-notch finisher. She is a one-time Top Female Scorer and would have had a good chance of doing it again this year if she hadn’t missed the first half season because she had a kid.
§ Jenny Out: Looks like she’s relaxed all the time and was one of the top women in scoring this year. She also can get the ball away from the opposite team without breaking a sweat and finishes quite well.
§ Travis ?????: A quick kid with a natural tendency to set people up after running the ball down. He also got his scoring touch when it mattered most: The end of the season and rode it into the playoffs.
§ Joel Friesen: The fearless captain of our PAC team and a great forward, he finished top five in the league in scoring. He also would set up in the corner and proceed to somehow get a perfect pass into the middle for someone to simply tap into the open net.
§ Aaron Kennedy: Probably one of the best defensive forwards in the game, he saved many games by coming back and stopping a shot that had “back of the net” written all over it. He also finished third on the team in scoring and would play defence with equal ease to offense.
Yes, our team was quite accomplished within NISL for the 2008/2009 season, doing better than we (or at least I) thought we would this year. I was hoping for a finish around the middle of the pack, but once we started to play I realized this team had grit and all-around skill that would do everything possible to win. However, I think that the greatest attribute of our team was that we were all sportsmen (and women!), considered by many teams I talked to as “their favourite team to play”. I felt honoured to play with these individuals and wish them all the best in their lives.
This brings me to my next and last section of my NISL story: Will I continue my career as a keeper when I return next year? Well, I must confess that I am not entirely sure what I will be doing as of next year when I go back to NBC for a third year. During the last PAC tournament in Millar, I must have blocked a shot awkwardly with my thumb, as it has been swollen ever since that weekend. Yes, two and a half months later I am still hurting from the last shot I had at clinching a PAC tournament title, which was halted by a strong Briercrest team. I actually went to the doctors about it after I got home from school, and he told me that my ligament in my thumb had detached from my bone and that it could take another 4-5 months to heal. However, I am sure that I have set that back from repeatedly using and abusing it at work. Yes, we shall see what unfolds, but as of right now, I would doubt a return to NISL in the fall.

NISL Origins Part Two

Shortly into my career as the net minder for the franchise Expired Milk, I quickly became a fan favourite. There are numerous explanations for this happening: 1). People generally cheer for underdogs and we were “underneath a poodles paw” per say. 2). People pitied my inevitable ridicule. 3). People actually enjoyed seeing balls being kicked at my face (humanity is sick!) 4). People liked seeing me leaping and diving for balls, as my style of goaltending is “interesting”. 5). The crowd was actually a select few individuals who could be as noisy as they wanted to be without being written up. 6). Insert personal opinion here.
Now, I shall let you pick the option that you feel led to believe. However, I will build on two of those choices: Numbers three and four. Hopefully this will add to my story without taking away from the point that I hope to get to at the end of all of this.
Part of my reasoning for number three is that my face has had many opportunities to have itself rearranged by the soccer ball. These unwanted services always is the result of someone who was talented, and, as a result, had a kick that would hum as it passed you. Have you ever seen a ball break the sound barrier? I have seen it on a few different occasions; oddly enough, most of those times I have had an intense burning in the general area of my head. Anyways, from my first week playing net to the more recent weeks I have had a target on my face. Forget the gaping iron and mesh contraption behind me, personal points are scored for ringing one off of my moneymaker. I have the honor of being hit in the face by Matt Thiessen, Ivan Desharnais and Lindsay Anderson. I also got hit in the chin my some kid named Luke the other week, but I managed to stay conscious. If you know anything about the first three of the players I mentioned you would know that they are all somewhat talented and can pick corners easily. My question to them is, “Why my flippin’ face!?”
The explanation to option four is simple: I played too much floor hockey and was clueless for the different stances you needed for soccer. Oh sure I was good down low and shocked people with my flexibility, but I was nearly useless up high. To compensate for my utter lack of positioning and my teams low scoring I became an entertainer to help give us a boost of energy. I often would leap in the air to save a simple shot, contort my body and flop around on the ground like a pretzel having seizures or run the ball up the court and use my mad moves to stun the opposition (you have to see it to believe it). These self-sacrificing moves could get the crowd into the game or repulse them, along with getting me hurt.
The most memorable experience of my facial injuries came in my first ever week of playing net. We were playing the formidable I.T. United in one of the many mismatched games that season and it showed. I was doing a decent job playing the gruelling job, and my defence was clogged up in front of me. I was sitting on my knees in front of the net and was waiting to see the ball pop out of the fray. I mean seriously, how can you see a ball when there are seven bodies in front of you all kicking and screaming? I think the correct answer in you can’t. So this fray was making me edgy, as the ball tends to squirt out and somehow it always ends up on foot of one of their players. This was no different than any of these times, as the ball squirted out and it headed straight to the man I didn’t want to see before my life flashed before my eyes: Matthew Thiessen.
Now imagine your in my position: A wall of pink and red jerseys in front of you while you are bobbing your head everywhere trying to find the ball. Then, silently and smoothly, the solid wall in front of you parts like the Red Sea and you have a clear view of the ball. Matt Thiessen is running to the ball. Everyone is watching him run towards the ball. The world is silent and in slow motion, stunningly gorgeous in my opinion. Well, I mean that was until Matt struck the ball and the world shattered into its fallen state once more. The ball, moving at about three thousand miles an hour, hit me square in the face and mashed my nose into my spine. My glasses, which couldn’t be supported without my nose, leapt off of my face into the netting in the back of the yawning cage. I collapsed backwards with fireworks bursting around my face and no clue with what was going on with the outside world. I opened my eyes moments after realizing that I still alive and not going home to see my new house in heaven. Turns out that the ball went straight in the air and was bouncing in the crease before one of my teammates grabbed it to stop play. I lived, although I am probably suffering from severe brain damage.
Now, I have been hurt playing soccer. I have often been asked how I haven’t hurt myself with some of the awkward moves I somehow ended up in by my net. To this question I simply answer “Ah, but I have injured myself.” It’s not just soccer balls and shoes that have hurt me, but my own self. In fact I harmed myself so bad I thought my soccer career so all but over…let me explain with more depth and meaning.
I had a bad back coming to school as a result of a summer mishap involving a house beam and myself. In fact, this was the excuse that I used to get myself out of being suckered into playing outdoor soccer that year…I was grown up enough this year to make the decision this year. Anyways, I thought it had healed enough when I signed up for indoor soccer and this turned out to be a bittersweet thing for me. I suffered immensely throughout the soccer season, sometimes having to lie flat on the hard floor to breathe. I tried to play through this pain, but I missed numerous games as a result of the issue. My problem? I had dislocated ribs, or so the chiropractor that I went to told me (I have no question that it was, as the chiropractor is an elder at a local church). I didn’t get to play PAC soccer as a result of my injury, but I did find out was wrong with me, which I probably wouldn’t have done if I didn’t play soccer. So, as I said before, it was a bittersweet victory to play last year. Again, soccer isn’t all glory, but it can pay off. So kids, get checked out at a local medical professional if you are hurting before playing soccer!