I am standing on the sideline, waiting for my daughter, Capri, to play in her first soccer game. I am so excited. But it is freeeezing cold outside. Luckily I put some extra clothes on Capri, but not enough. She’s miserable. Not to mention it is only 10:00 am and she’s NOT a morning person. Plus we have a doubleheader. We’ve had two practices prior to this game and these kids are still not sure how to play many sports, let alone soccer.
My hands stay in my pockets so that I can’t pick off another piece of skin from around my nails. I watch as Capri tries to run after the ball but gets sucked into the swarm of 7 other kids on the field. And then she gets even colder and frustrated. She stands on the field and cries. I felt frustrated. Embarrassed. Like, why is MY kid the one crying? She was so excited to play yesterday! I wanted to watch her score a goal during her first soccer game, but instead she just wants to sit on the bench and cries about wanting to go home. My blood was boiling inside.
I Can’t Be THAT Parent
Our eyes meet. She knows I’m not thrilled. I tell her that I know it is cold outside but she needs to run around to warm up. She doesn’t even listen. I thank God that these games are short. We had time before the next game started so we ran to the car to warm up and get a snack. She was 100% better, a total different person, and was ready to play in the second game.
She ran to the ball, kicked it around, even tried to shoot it a couple times – but no goals. Regardless, I loved watching her play. And she was so happy after the game. She said it was FUN!
Sports Need to be Fun
Since the age of 4, I played soccer. I loved it. Everything about it. It didn’t seem like a “workout” or “exercise” to me. I wanted to hang out with my friends and kick the ball around. I wasn’t a goal scorer. Although there was that one game when my dad said if I could score three goals he’d buy me ice cream after the game. You better believe I did score three goals!
But I am now living vicariously through my soccer playing daughter. My parents didn’t know the first thing about soccer when I started to play. Bless my first soccer coach as he had to go to the library (GASP!) to borrow a book about the rules. We were all clueless but somehow we figured it out. And I played until my junior year in high school when I got hurt. I’ll spare you the details.
Sport Parents are Different Now
I don’t mean to brag, but unlike my parents, I KNOW soccer. I have been trying to teach my daughter the ins and outs of how to play since she could walk. Cam is following in her footsteps too! I have always told myself that I would not, no…could not…ever be their soccer coach because I need and want someone else to teach them in a different way than I do at home.
So when she decided she was going to play in the second game, of course I was proud. The smile was probably a mile wide on my face. But I didn’t want to be THAT parent who coached from the sidelines, who the other parents were annoyed with because her daughter can actually dribble the ball and shoot…it doesn’t go in but hey, she tried! The coach from the other team even came over and told her and another girl she is friends with that they played really well. Little did he know that this was her first soccer game!
Success Versus Fun
You’ve read the stories about parents yelling and screaming at the players/coaches/refs/other parents during or because of a game. I feel like my generation of parents were brought up a bit different when it came to sports versus our parents.
Don’t get me wrong. I know my parents “played” organized sports. Although there wasn’t much for girls back then. But there just wasn’t the pressure on children then as there is now to succeed in sports. I think it is because the parents of today grew up playing the sports that our children are starting to play now. We know how to play, we know the rules, and we can see the field in a different perspective than those who didn’t play.
However, sports parents of today have to remember that even though we know the game, our children are still learning and it should be fun. We can help them and guide them through the game, but it isn’t until they get older that they are going to be able to see the field like we do. They are going to run in a pack until they learn to SPREAD OUT (I swear I still hear that in my sleep from my coaching days). But that is all in learning the game.
Remember What it is Truly About
I kept playing soccer because it was fun. There wasn’t any pressure for me to score goals (except for ice cream) and it didn’t matter if we won or lost. Even in high school, no one would talk about playing soccer at some big university. Sure, we had a couple girls play beyond high school, but no further than that.
My goal as a soccer mom is to teach my kids to love the sport and to have fun. Sports allow you an opportunity unlike others to make lifelong friends because if they stick with it, they will be playing with the other kids who stick with it for years. Some of my best childhood memories came from soccer. And I miss playing. My daughter even said to me, “Are you happy that I am playing soccer now so you can play with me?” and the answer was yes. But even if she didn’t want to play soccer, I’d be teaching her to have fun doing whatever it was.
So sports parents, take note from the great Mia Hamm who said to tell your children that you loved watching them play when they step off that field. Don’t worry if Suzy didn’t pass the ball to the right person to score in that open net, or if Billy had a bad game and it cost the team the win. Forget all of that. Focus on the positive. And if the day comes when the fun and the love for the sport isn’t there anymore, then move on. Find something else that your children love to do.