There’s a commonly shared maxim in the world of sports that “It’s not how you start – it’s how you finish!” That sagely observation, of course, underscores the value of perseverance, and not letting initial adversity get you down.

And with half a season already in the books, any number of players and teams will likely be inspired by the delivery of that same message – to apply it on the pitch, and hopefully, as with all valuable lessons, throughout life thereafter.

While I can’t disagree, I find it curiously paradoxical that in my son’s own convoluted soccer pathway, it’s been the starts, not the finishes, that have proven seminal moments – forming an enduring mental album of cherished memories.

I still remember the start to U-7, arriving at an unfamiliar Vancouver park in mid- September, when the fallen maple leaves seemed as if they came up to the kids’ knees. They didn’t of course, but everything was so much smaller then – the postage stamp sized fields, and the kids’ pinnies pretty much hanging to their ankles.

Our son was meeting his teammates and coaches for the first time, and I could see the trepidation on his face as we stood there surveying the scene. As luck would have it, a tall, stocky but jovial looking man approached and introduced himself as Olivio. Kneeling down to achieve eye level with my boy, he smiled, extended his hand for a handshake, and welcomed him to the team. In an instant, the nervous look was gone – replaced with a glow of pure joy. It was an unforgettable introduction to soccer.

Several years later, our family decided to go out of district, and to join the Richmond soccer family. Our first U-10 parents’ meeting was held at Boyd, which I considered myself fortunate to have found. We were informed that the first practice would be held later in the week at Whiteside. While all the other parents were busy giving nodding approval, I was busy making a mental note to run “Whiteside” through Google Earth once we got home. I wasn’t sure if it was some secluded, waspy satellite suburb of Richmond, a park, or a school.

When practice day arrived, my wife and I stood along the sidelines watching, knowing nobody, and anxiously hoping that our sojourn to Richmond hadn’t been a big mistake. We’d been there for all of about five minutes when a friendly voice called out “Hi, I’m David…and this is Liz!” Introductions were made, and in no time we’d met most of the parents, and were made to feel welcome. Dave, Liz, and their family have since become close friends, and our boys have been teammates for six years now.

Whether it’s been a grassroots coach, new sets of parents, or the slightly balding guy with dark shades, flip flops, and a clipboard hanging out at King George field who stopped to switch into his Umbros nearby, and reassured my son and I with “You’re in the right place!” when we’d arrived much too early for a U10+ session, the starts have all been fantastic.

My son’s now in U-15, and I’m already all too keenly aware that his youth soccer days will be drawing to a close in the not too distant future. Maybe it is the finish that counts after all, but that doesn’t mean that I have to be in any hurry to see it happen.