Call it evolution, happening right before our eyes.
Gretchen Young starts playing soccer for Severna Park in the early 1990s, then passes her love for the game and a few skills down to a younger sibling. That sibling passes them to another, then another, then another.
By the time the fifth and sixth siblings come around -- Taylor and Samantha Young -- soccer's practically in their bloodstreams. They are competitive, fast, athletic.
"We're good at soccer," Taylor said, "because basically we've been taught by the brothers and sisters that came before us."
Sam, a sophomore, led the Falcons girls' team to a state title last year and can score in bunches; Taylor, a junior, has a dozen goals for the boys this season and an uncanny knack for finding open teammates. It's easy, they say, to be among the best players at Severna Park. Because high school soccer, while rough and competitive, is nothing like the soccer in the family's back yard.
"Ever since we could walk we've been dribbling soccer balls," Taylor said. "We'd spend whole days in the back yard playing soccer and just beating on each other. That's all we did, really."
It was never the type of household Lynn and Steve Young expected when they set out to start a family almost 30 years ago. Lynn didn't much like sports; Steve grew up playing football.
Soccer? Well, nobody knew -- or cared to know -- anything about that until Gretchen started scoring hat tricks in middle school. Suddenly, Steve was missing Washington Redskins games to watch his daughter play on Sundays. He fell in love with the fast breaks and the non-stop action. "It didn't take long," he said, "before I became totally addicted."
It happened like that to all of them: Gretchen, now 27; Adam, 23; Meghan, 22; Thomas, 20; Taylor, 16; Sam, 15. One by one, they joined youth teams, club teams and, finally, the Severna Park team.
For more than a dozen years, the Youngs have sat in the bleachers at Severna Park, watching several hundred games. "The senior parents are gone after a year, and the freshman parents come in," Steve said. "The only thing that's constant is that we're still there."
Soccer is part of the family framework now. They watch on television. They monitor Manchester United, Taylor's favorite team, on the Internet. Even their vacations have soccer themes: Steve hopes to take the entire clan to the World Cup in 2006 in Germany.
"Soccer is like 24-7 around here," Lynn said. "They're just crazy about it. Sam and Taylor have practically been going to soccer games since they were born."
They must have been soaking it in that long, too. Why else would Taylor's coach at Severna Park, Robert Thomas, sometimes pull his player aside to ask for strategic advice? Why else would Sam, physically unimposing, be considered -- already -- one of the best girls ever to play for the Falcons?
They've always digested soccer. Desperate for an extra player, older siblings pulled them into backyard games when they could barely walk. "People ask me, 'Why is Samantha so good?'" Steve says. "Well, because she's the baby of six and if she didn't play, she was going to be the ball."
That's about how it has always worked in the Young family: Fit into soccer or fit somewhere else. Meghan picked up lacrosse in high school and ended up earning a college scholarship. To her siblings -- only half jokingly -- she's a traitor.
And what the other Young siblings made their passion, Taylor and Sam made a lifestyle. Their older siblings never tried out for the prestigious Maryland Olympic Development Program because Steve and Lynn, already trying to cram a life between club and high school games, couldn't imagine adding more soccer.
Sam and Taylor are both fast and physical. Where their older siblings might have done one or two things really well, the youngest two are impressive all around. In a 4-1 win over Chesapeake last week, Sam scored three goals, then reflected that she'd had an "average" game.
Both teams face Southern today in the last game of the regular season. The girls were 9-4-1 entering the game; the boys were 9-2-1.
"I've had some pretty great players, but none as dangerous as Sam," Severna Park Coach Gary Lam said. "She just operates at a totally different level of play."
After lifting her team over Chesapeake, Sam joined family members in the bleachers to watch Taylor barely miss two shots in a 1-0 loss to Chesapeake. Even in defeat, he commanded the field.
"He makes it look so easy at times," Thomas said. "He knows the game so well that, to him, it's simple."
In the bleachers, the Youngs watched the doubleheader and chatted. "This is about all we do," Steve said. "We've probably been to a few thousand soccer games."
It's a formidable schedule. But, with only two-plus years of Severna Park soccer left, not having it seems even scarier.
"We've built our lives around all this soccer," Lynn said. "Sometimes it seems like a lot, but I can't even imagine not doing it. I don't think it will ever end, really.
"We've got a grandson who just started playing, and he's 5. Chances are soccer will be his thing, too."