I have been to the Campton United Midwest Cup six times. I don’t play in it, of course, I’m not a great runner, and I’d rather be in the air conditioning. My brother’s team is in the tournament every year, and since this was his last tournament before going to college, my family decided to make a vacation out of it.
From early in the morning to late in the evening, teens in soccer cleats and grass-stained jerseys ran around on the fields kicking a ball, while I kicked back in the shade on my lawn chair snacking along with my parents. I had always secretly admired how hard my brother works to get better, how he’ll run around in the heat for hours chasing that soccer ball. I would never have told him that, though. Ever since we got old enough to be cool, we spent a lot less time together. I couldn’t believe he was about to leave for college; I felt like that day would be the end of our family.
On the second day of the tournament, my brother’s team only played in the morning, so my parents bought passes to Otter Cove, a giant waterpark across the parking lot from the soccer fields. I’ve wanted to go ever since we first arrived; that cool water tempting me while I was being a good sister watching a field full of sweaty soccer players. When my brother’s game was finally over, we hurried across the parking lot, eagerly ranking the many waterslides we could see from the road.
The water was refreshing, and we went from the lazy river to the short, drop slides to the giant slides, before going back to the lazy river again. My brother and I raced down the newest slide that timed which of us was the fastest (me!). I felt like a little kid again, playing hard under the hot sun, my brother and I splashing each other and our parents.
Worn out and hungry from all that, we drove the short distance to downtown St. Charles and parked in a lot overlooking the river. Some of my brother’s teammates and their families joined us, and our large group headed in to Puebla Modern Mexican for dinner. We ordered probably everything off the menu, sampling all the tacos, enchiladas and the variety of guacamoles and salsas. Everything I tasted was amazing!
After dinner, my brother and his friends made me laugh with dramatic re-enactments of a player collision from earlier in the day as we walked down 1st Street, passing brightly lit stores and more restaurants. I was full, but like everyone else in the group, I couldn’t say no Kimmer’s Ice Cream once I saw the stream of people exiting the shop with heaping cones. I ordered a Parent Trap waffle cone—two heavenly scoops of vanilla, peanut butter and Oreos®. We spent another hour walking the paths along the river with our ice cream, before heading back to our hotels.
On the last day of the tournament, my brother’s team was in the championship game. At the end of the second half, the teams were tied. I had never seen them play so hard. Overtime was a nonstop nail-biter, with a final goal in the last fifteen seconds. My brother’s team… lost. I was surprised at how devastated I was. I had gotten so invested in his team without realizing it. We headed back to the hotel that night much quieter, falling asleep in our beds just after the sun went down.
The next morning, I was determined to cheer up my family. I woke up early and encouraged everyone to get going for breakfast. Together we had planned a full day, and I did my best to make sure they enjoyed it. We started out midmorning, renting kayaks to float down the Fox River. It wasn’t long before we were splashing and laughing, and no one was thinking about the loss. We saw all kinds of birds, some fish and even a few turtles playing along the shore. It was another beautiful, sunny day.
After a laid-back lunch, we went to Pottawatomie Park for mini golf. The park was huge, and families seemed to be enjoying the beautiful summer day by biking, playing catch, running around the playground and having picnics. The mini golf course was right next to the water; I loved all the creative obstacles, and my parents kept commenting on the beautiful river and the surrounding foliage. It was a close game, but my brother beat me by 10 strokes. Maybe it was my subconscious letting him win (OK, golf really isn’t my game).
We had one last event—a Kane County Cougars baseball game. It turned out to be very entertaining. They had raffles and side games, and I wandered the upstairs hallways trying to choose which of the tempting concessions I wanted most. I walked back to my seat with a cheeseburger, cotton candy, nachos and soda. Just as I was devouring my cotton candy, I saw our family on the jumbotron! I tried to hide, but my brother laughed and grabbed a handful of cotton candy, pretending to stuff his cheeks with it. He grinned at the camera, which made the crowd (and me) laugh.
At the end of the game, the stadium put on a spectacular fireworks display. I was so happy to be surrounded by my family, tired from all the fun that day, and feeling the whole summer stretching out before me. My brother put his arm around me.
“I’m glad we still have all summer together.”
I smiled at him. All the fun, laughter, food, even the end of my brother’s tournament—this place had brought us closer together.
“Me too,” I said.Turn sports travel into family fun.