Ender came home from soccer practice the other day with mixed news. On the plus side, he was the youngest player to make the team at the elite level for which he is now eligible. Most of the players from his last year’s team are now out of the sport or transferring to lesser clubs. On the downside, he reported that he’d lost his first fight, although besides being slightly wild-eyed he didn’t look any the worse for wear to me.
I don’t tend to get worked up over the occasional fracas since there is a definite “boys will be boys” attitude here, but I was furious when he told me the details, as he was jumped before practice by a bigger kid two years older, who kicked him in the face from behind while Ender was passing the ball back-and-forth with a teammate. A second kid, also older, then grabbed him around the neck when he whirled around and tried to hold him back for the first kid to punch. Ender took a few shots to the face and got a bloody nose out of it, but in the process he managed to bloody the first kid’s nose by kicking him in the face, and messed up the second kid’s leg by raking his shin and kicking his knee with his heel.
The kid with whom Ender had been passing the ball tried to intervene, but was flattened for his trouble, until finally the star of the team, who is more than a bit of an athletic specimen, jumped in and punched the two kids off Ender to break things up. The strange thing is that the two kids are new to the club and Ender didn’t know either of them. So, my suspicion is that they were trying to assert themselves by picking on the youngest kid, who unfortunately carries himself with misleading body language that tends to lead aggressors to believe he is an easier target than is in fact the case. Alternatively, there are some girls who have made it eminently clear that they like him, and I’m wondering if that might have something to do with it.
Anyhow, as I pointed out, it was much more of a draw than a loss, because the second kid’s knee was too badly hurt to permit him to practice, so he went home, and then after practice, the first kid challenged Ender in front of the others, then, when Ender indicated his willingness to reopen hostilities on equal terms, backed down. Besides being fairly tough after three years of judo, Ender is now as tall as I am, and while he doesn’t have much mass to him yet, the kid is ripped. However, he doesn’t have much in the way of strike training yet, which is an oversight I intend to rectify.
Ender was vastly amused, however, by my initial reaction, as well as the reaction of the two Dragons I told about it, as we were uniformly focused on the tactical situation. Besides ambuscades and kicking high, the kid apparently likes to grab the neck with his left, pull his victim forward, and then throw punches with his right hand. So, we went over obliquing and arm bars, as well as the catch, lift, and twist routine for dealing with kickers. If the kid does manage to close, rather than trying to pull away, move in, cover up with one elbow, and work the ribs until he pulls away, then switch to elbows and knees. It’s with some difficulty that I’m going to leave matters up to Ender at his request rather than complain to the club, but if the kid is dumb enough to attack Ender again, I very much doubt he’s coming out of it without a broken arm and possibly a few broken ribs.
One of the hard things as a father is learning when you can step in and take care of a problem for your son and when you have to step back and let him take care of his own business. As much as I’d love to put the fear of me into the little bastard (as in The Dark Knight and “SWEAR TO ME”) and I have no doubt that I could, I have to step back here.
Now, I think turning the other cheek is important. I have even done it on occasion, once when I was perfectly within my rights to break the other individual’s jaw. And Ender has been very good about making peace with past assailants; he’s quite friendly now with the oversized kid who caused him trouble last season. But there is a time for peace and there is a time for war. This would appear to be one of the latter.
On a happier note, Ender is beginning his professional refereeing career this weekend, and I’ll have the opportunity to be there since my team will be one of the two sides playing. I have already explained to him that it is bad form, and more than a little unwise, to blow the offsides whistle on any attacking player who has the power to decide the referee’s bedtime.