It turns out I’m a soccer mom.
I mean I don’t have the minivan. Most of the time we’re late to practice and I forget water for my kids. But three or four days a week I’m on the sidelines cheering on little players.
My oldest has been playing since he was 4. He had a rough start because he got hit on the head with a ball and refused to go back on the field. At two separate practices.
But once he got the hang of it, he had a great time. He improved dramatically over the past year or so, expanding his footwork skills and scoring goals. He’s working on teamwork and passing now. It’s nice because on his team he’s an older, more experienced kid so now he gets to help the ones who haven’t played as much.
My daughter started this past fall and she’s a natural, provided she stays on the field.
Most of her first season we spent chasing her down because once she had the ball she would keep kicking and running until she met the fence surrounding the field. She mastered dribbling that way, so I guess I can’t be too upset. Plus I got some extra exercise.
With the younger kids, however, there isn’t much you can do if they choose not to play or decide in the middle of the game to run and give you a hug. And I like that because everyone is out there for fun so there isn’t too much pressure.
We try to instill in the kids that cheering for everyone and having a good time is more important than winning, and definitely more important than putting another team down. Yes, we want our team to win, but we also will clap when we see the opposing team perform well.
I played soccer very poorly in high school. I never mastered coordination, which is necessary for trying not to catch the soccer ball with your hands as it’s coming right at your face. My kids have some of my coordination issues, but they’re also young and are quick to pick up new skills. It’s amazing to watch them grow as players.
My daughter seems to be better this season in that she spends most of her time on the field when she’s supposed to be there. But there still are days when she has trouble focusing and thinks laying down in the goal is the best way to showcase her talents.
I knew I would enjoy watching the kids play, but I didn’t know how much I would love it and how much I would have to restrain myself from yelling exuberantly during the games. As it is, I am not so good at restraining myself. But I haven’t embarrassed the little players yet, so I haven’t stepped over the line too far.
My son has expressed interest in playing other sports that might interfere with the soccer schedule. While my first instinct is to keep him at this sport I love so much, I won’t force him. If he wants to do something else, great. I’ll just become a baseball mom or a judo mom. Or even a swimming mom. Or he might decide he doesn’t want to play any sport at all and that’s fine, too.
My daughter has an overabundance of – let’s say liveliness – so she loves anything that involves running around. We’ll see where she wants to go as she grows older. I’ve heard gymnastics is a good way to burn off energy.
For now, though, it’s rushing home to rush through some semblance of dinner to rush into cleats and shin guards and soccer clothes to rush to the field and yell and cheer.
I’ll take it.
*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on April 23, 2014.