How we defined the word “team” in hard times, an interview with the Anderson Family on the trying times faced during the end of the Shock 2012-13 season

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Aaron Anderson delivering service out of the back, one of his many dangerous qualities as a keeper!

The 2012-13 season for the South Sound Shock PASL premier team ended in San Diego in the semi-finals after a hard fought battle throughout the season. We went 13 games undefeated with one tie in there and we found improvement in our form in every aspect as a team during this season, but some of the hardest and strongest lessons we learned didn’t have much to do with soccer, they had to do with real life and the brotherhood that the word “team” incorporates.

From the beginning of the high level days at the South Sound FC we have always been vocal about working for each other and backing each other up. We have been known to quote the common soccer phrase “You Will Never Walk Alone” and we have always preached that working hard for each other and as a unit will pay off way more than individual skill level. This thought process went directly into our play as we focused on being the “blue collar” team this season, both appropriate to our surroundings and a strong belief system in our club.

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Celebrating a PASL NW Division Championship win!
Photo courtesy of Wilson Tsoi and Goalwa.net

While we faced adversity many times in the season and through a lot of different avenues, there was no preparing us for the adversity we would face when our goal keeper and one of the greatest players that will ever play for the South Sound Shock Aaron Anderson lost his son in the weeks in between our playoff and national championship games.

We felt it was important to share the story of what our team went through with the Anderson family and how the word “team” got redefined for many people involved with and following the South Sound club. So John Crouch spent the evening with the Andersons recently recounting the story of their twin babies being born right at the end of our season and the eventual death of Parker Curtis Anderson. Here is the story of our season with Aaron and what we went through as we experienced this terrible tragedy as a team.

Aaron Anderson averaged 21 saves a game and is an absolute beast when it comes to shot stopping, he is dangerous with his service (even more this year than last) and is arguably one of the best keepers in the PASL Premier league. We feared losing Aaron to the Tacoma Stars early in the season but were happy to learn that Aaron would rather play with his friends and stay local, so we got him for the whole season. When you have a rock like Aaron in the net, it’s tough to think about going to games without him and while we didn’t want to think too much about it during the season, we knew that our playoff picture (if we were to make it) and on from there would bring questionable attendance as his wife was due right around our seasons end. A bit into the season we learned that Aaron and Emily were expecting twins so things became even more questionable about Aarons schedule during the end of our season, but we just kept playing and didn’t give it much though.

Photo Courtesy of Wilson Tsoi and Goalwa.net

This team stands together and stands strong!
Photo Courtesy of Wilson Tsoi and Goalwa.net

We openly make family a priority on this team as many of our guys are older and have more to worry about than soccer these days, but we also are sure to test our families with the high commitment level to soccer and the toll it can take on time at home. As a side note, there should probably be some sort of wives social club formed around our club as these ladies have to sacrifice a lot for their husbands to play.

Back to our story though, Emily (Aaron’s wife) is a huge supporter (and critic sometimes) of Aaron’s play and always come to our games. Their family has since day one been a part of the South Sound Shock family but this year it became much deeper.

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Aaron, Emily, Parker and Lydia a new family!

Of course timing on the birth of Emily and Aarons twins was not optimal for Aaron’s play in our playoff games. He recalled, “I was disappointed when I found out that the babies would be born during the playoff time of year. Thinking I wasn’t going to be able to go didn’t affect me at all, even if I wasn’t there to win the championship I would still feel like I won it.”

The babies were born 7 weeks early, in fact Emily went into labor after the Snohomish game (our last game of the season) and they joked about not knowing how bouncy I-5 was until that night. She went to the hospital later that night (or early Sunday morning) and would remain there until the babies were born 4 days later.

The babies being born on Wednesday February 13 and were taken immediately to ICU and placed on breathing tubes and IV due to being close to a month premature. Emily had been in the hospital since Sunday February 10th and we knew the playoffs were coming the next week and we tried to give the Andersons their privacy and not bother them but we were definitely concerned about Aaron and if he would be playing. We did not know if we would be going with our back up Dominic Cusato or getting Aaron by Friday for the first game of our playoff weekend. While we were very concerned about the playoffs and Aaron being in the net we didn’t want to bother them too much, “We always preach family at the shock” John told the Andersons in the interview and so we left Aaron to be with his family.

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“Big Daddy Aaron” comes up huge in shootout against WSA Rapids, photo courtesy of Goalwa.net and Wilson Tsoi

Emily was adimate that Aaron go to support his team in the playoffs though after the babies were born and they would be fine. Emily was in the hospital during our playoff weekend and was having a hard time missing the game, “I hadn’t missed a game yet” but she pushed Aaron to go and get a win. She also went onto say it meant so much that we recognized “Big Daddy Aaron” at the game and congratulating them on having twins. Aaron wasn’t quite as pleased about the recognition as he was trying to get “zoned in on the game” after the crazy week he had just had living at the hospital and gearing up for parenting 2 babies.

Aaron went on to play an amazing game against the Bellingham WSA Rapids in our first playoff game, with 21 saves. We won the game in a shootout and the key ingredient there was Aaron making huge saves to allow us the opportunity to put the game away with a goal from Joey Gjertsen. Our side was ecstatic after a long week of wondering about Aaron’s status. We would go on to win the final on Sunday comfortably compared to the battle we had fought on Friday versus the Rapids. We held a strong lead the whole second half, Aaron hauled in 22 saves and we were on our way to the National Tournament in San Diego.

Emily was in the hospital still during the weekend of the playoffs and she was getting updates via Facebook as we played our way into the league title. The nurses and staff at the hospital had become somewhat of a family to the Andersons since they had all mostly been living at the hospital during this time. They were all following and rooting for our team and for Aaron with Emily in the hospital the weekend of our playoff game.

Just as things had started to look better for the babies and then they took a turn for the worst for Parker. He was diagnosed with Necrotizing Enterocolitis (a condition premature babies can have when their bowels aren’t full developed and leaking occurs) and would undergo 2 emergency surgeries. Aaron and Emily had been through a roller coaster ride of ups and downs already, including celebrating their anniversary and Emily getting her staples out the same day they would find out that Parker had to go under emergency surgery. Surgeons and doctors were not always giving the Anderson positive feedback on the situation but even the most realistic and straight talking surgeon they encountered noticed the fight in Parker with a comment saying “this kid’s got great mojo”. While Aaron and Emily tried not to get their hopes up, they would take any glimmer of hope for Parker they could find. “The hardest part was having Lydia doing so well and staying on a different floor while Parker was on life support” Aaron recalled when interviewed on this trying time in his life.

Just when things were looking better for Parker and the doctors told Aaron and Emily to go home

Parker Curis Anderson 2013

Parker Curtis Anderson 2013

after 2 emergency surgeries for Parker, they were called back into the hospital once again and told a 3rd surgery was needed. When they arrived at the hospital and came into the room the surgeon told them not to wash up and that there wasn’t time to waste. The nurse had been manually keeping Parkers breath going long enough for Aaron and Emily to arrive. Parker would die in his mother’s arms that day as the doctors had decided not to perform a 3rd surgery. Parker showed signs that he would not make it through this surgery. The surgeon said “Parker made a decision today so his parents didn’t have to” Emily recounted this comment as she remembered the pain of the day and the difficulty having to decide whether or not to do surgery when the situation is so delicate. Both Aaron and Emily held Parker as he breathed his last breaths on March 5, 2013.

News came to the coaches at SSFC that night at training and we chose to withhold the news from the team. The team was just 3 short days from departure to San Diego and we wanted our guys not to worry and to stay focused on the weekend. We would tell them later on when we felt that the situation had time to settle a bit. We had been in touch with Aaron via text for the weeks leading up to this tragedy just letting him know (and Emily) that we were praying for them, we had sent flowers to the hospital and also just let him know that we were behind him as his team and we wanted what was best for him. After Parker’s death John Crouch left a voice mail on his phone letting them know that we were praying and saying we want what’s best for Aaron, if playing is the answer then let’s go play but we certainly didn’t expect that and we had the situation covered. Some other circumstances surrounding the team and players made for an easy decision to switch a ticket into Aarons name so he could make the decision up until the very last second to come to San Diego if needed to.

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Keeper Beast Aaron Anderson readies himself for national tournament games with team physio Erik Waterland.

Aaron and Emily recall the decision making process, Aaron was “iffy” as Emily recalled. She also sympathized with the hard times the team had organizing the travel. She then spoke of what a great season we had and how much we were a team and how much Aaron meant to our team. She said, “I felt Aaron had a real responsibility to finish the season, I knew what Aaron meant to the team and what all the other players meant to us. I gained a new understanding of the word ‘team’ through all of this, I never knew that something that special existed.” She went on to speak of the motivation and encouragement on the team, “it’s more about being there for each other and working together for each other, when we were coming to the end it was just important to finish the season.” Receiving messages while at the hospital after our playoffs from Joey Gjertsen teammate and close friend saying “your husband is a hero, the whole place just gave him a standing ovation and he played out of his mind”, “I just sobbed I was so proud” Emily said.

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The Anderson Family- Aaron, Emily and Lydia

“The team uplifted a very difficult time for us, it was so difficult to see our kids sick but to feel the support from this team and to share this team with the kids was very special” Emily said. Emily “threw” Aaron on the plane with a huge vote of confidence; Aaron’s main concern after losing Parker was that Lydia was ok and that she would be there when he returned home. Aaron felt a deep support structure from the team recalling all the prayers and team prayer led by Derek Johnson for the Andersons and he was ready to go.

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Armbands in remembrance of Parker Curtis Anderson- “You will never walk alone.”

Aaron arrived on his own to the tournament late Saturday night before the tournament, with coaches and staff greeting him ready to bring him to the tournament and welcoming him with open arms, and beers! We wore arm bands for Parker during the tournament and we really dedicated the tournament to Parker and the Anderson family. John Crouch recalls the meaning we had in this tournament “I felt a tremendous amount of pressure to win it for Parker and for Aaron, and when we didn’t we were fine as we knew that the memory of what we had been through was much more than winning the tournament.”
There was a tremendous amount of support for Aaron and Emily in San Diego and back home as we would keep our undefeated streak for 3 more games in the tournament only to lose in the semi-finals. Derek Johnson scored 4 goals in the first game and dedicated them all to Parker, “Parker on 3” replaced the Shock chant we would give before we entered the field. We wore arm bands with PCA on them in memory of Parker. We experienced playing with a purpose beyond anything any of us had ever felt before.

Aaron recalled the season, “This is all I really know, playing soccer, and this is the first year I have wanted to do it for something other than just to have fun and get my aggressions out, to experience the fullest extent of what it means to be a team, even before we had the babies.” In speaking about playing in the national tournament Aaron recalled,  “I was in the right mindset for the most part, I felt a little pressure and always had the second thought about Parker and the family, I would spend my whole warm up trying to get my mind on the game and all the parts of the game would point back to Parker and to my family, so that put a little pressure on me but it was good.”

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The team after elimination from the 2013 PASL National Championships.

The end of the tournament was emotional, the loss and not getting to the finals was tough to swallow, but once we got out of the arena and back to the hotel we were able to focus on what we had accomplished and all that we had been through. We had a purpose as a team and it wasn’t our purpose, it was the purpose of playing for each other and specifically for Aaron and Emily. We can use something as simple as soccer, to bring together teammates, fans, and players together to support a cause that goes beyond the field. We received comments from other players or from friends about how impressed they were with our club and how we stuck together through all of this. “I wish I was a part of something that strong and special” was a comment made after our return from this trip that truly touched our hearts about what we do with this team and how the team behaves, this is a rewarding thought after all the hard work all the guys, coaches and owners have put into every aspect of this club.

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We all drove Aaron to the airport, we love that guy so much!

Aaron and Emily are ready for Lydia to see her father play the indoor game with the Shock and we will all be back to have another great season and go back to win the national title next time!

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Tee shirts made for the March of Dimes walk, go Team Lil Parker! We will never forget!

Please feel free to join the team and Anderson Family for the March of Dimes walk and join Team Lil Parker on May 18th at 8 am, there will be tee shirts for purchase for the team and the money will go toward research that helped keep Lydia alive and also do research to cure diseases like Necrotizing Enterocolitis. The fundraising also goes to help support the nursing staff that meant so much to Aaron and Emily during this time as they spent these 3 hard weeks living at the hospital and all that they went through there.

The Anderson Family wanted to make clear their appreciation of all of the nurses, doctors, friends and teammates during these very trying times and to also point out the value in these types of relationships and teams in our lives. Thank you for reading and supporting the Anderson’s, The South Sound FC and the March of Dimes in memory of Parker Curtis Anderson.

You will Never Walk Alone.