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My Debut as a Soccer Mom

October 11, 2010
by

Something else--or, actually, the only thing--Victoria Beckham and I have in common: the soccer thing.

Amelia is 7, Ben is 4.5, and this is the first fall we’ve registered them for soccer. I wasn’t against the sport so much as I was against two ideas:

1. Giving up Saturday mornings–mornings I’d rather be running, cleaning, chatting with my long-distance friends–to stand on the sidelines while amoebas of shin-guarded tykes floated around the field, playing what Amelia’s new coach calls “bunchball.”

2. Living up to the stereotype that I already am. I drive an Odyssey. I have a pair of Dansko clogs (although I never wear them: they make my hips hurt too much). I buy paper products in bulk–and love a good Costco sample. I feel like I’ve really made an effort with my appearance when I wear a pair of jeans that aren’t sprung in the knees and I’ve covered up my eye circles and and errant zits. (What’s up with 38-year-old soccer moms getting zits, anyway?)

But this year, we decided Amelia needed to try a team sport–she’d been in swimming and dancing lessons–and because whatever Thing One does, Thing Two definitely has to do, we bought size 3 balls, cleats that make Ben’s feet look as wide as dinner rolls and suited them both up for beautiful game.

The first tournament, a three-gamer which Amelia had after exactly one practice, did not go well. Amelia was all psyched to play goalie in the first game, until she realized she had to wear a pink pinny over her white shirt. She pitched a fit, I was confused–the girl has more shades of pink than Strawberry Shortcake; what’s the problem?--so then I made excuses for her. Together, we looked like we were going to be the requisite problem parent/child combo for the season. Around half-time, I figured it out: she wanted to look exactly like her teammates, not like the oddball out.

Thankfully, the season could only go up from there. Despite the Shooting Stars, her team, having lost every game so far, it definitely has. The girls, all under age 8 and all pretty new to soccer, are becoming much more competent with the ball. At least during practice. During a game, they show their skills only when the ball pretty much lands at their feet. If they have to beat an opponent to the ball or–heaven forbid!–actually take the ball away from another player, then well, that’s out of their comfort zone. They should be renamed the *Really Nice* Shooting Stars.

At least they’re having fun, right? I remind myself as I stand on the sidelines. But I start to talk to the other Stars moms to distract myself from our really nice girls. We semi-joke about making one-on-one, after-school drills at home mandatory. We wonder if the opposing team started playing soccer when they were 2 years old. (Likely. Seriously.) We hope that maybe, just once, a Star will throw an out-of-bounds ball in to another Star, not the other team. We’re thrilled when the ball actually gets cleared from out from the Shooting Star’s goal area. And a when one of our girls actually gets a shot off–no matter if it goes 10 feet wide–we cheer as if The Stars have just won the World Cup.

I know why we signed her up for soccer–learn life lessons through winning and losing, teamwork, blah, blah, blah–but I am not sure I am cut out for this soccer mom stuff. “It gets you right in here, doesn’t it?” asks one dad on the sideline, bumping his chest near his heart. Certainly does.

Obviously, nobody wants their kid to lose, but I didn’t anticipate how much I would care about their games. I feel more invested in a random Saturday soccer game than I do for a half-marathon I trained months for. I wince when the other team scores, partly because they scored, but mostly because other parents yell so loudly for their team (just, ahem, as I would do). I take it personally–don’t you dare cheer against my daughter!–even though Amelia probably doesn’t even notice. Similarly, the disparity in scores–8-0, 7-1–feel so insurmountable to me. Again, the significance barely registers with her. Yesterday, the score was 5-2. “We just needed three more goals, Mom,” she told me after the game in a chirpy tone that conveyed she believed that could’ve easily put it in the net three more times.

Leave it to Thing Two to bring me back to reality. His team, the Black Grizzlies, was scrimmaging against the Texas Orange Giraffes. Their first real game against another team. I was ready to see him get in that bunchball, maybe actually have a kick or two in the right direction.

Instead, he paid attention to the game about half the time, but never touched the ball. The other half? He spent in a quiet corner of the field, practicing his forward somersaults.

35 Comments leave one →
  1. Natalie permalink
    October 11, 2010 7:06 am

    Love this post, Dimity! I felt the exact same way when AYSO started up this fall. I even called my husband to yell at him when I realized my six-year-old also has practice one evening a week (on top of the Saturday games which are spread hours apart–my four-year-old plays at 8:30 and my six-year-old plays at noon). I work four days a week, two nights a week and was (was!) training for a marathon. How did he expect me to do all this soccer stuff too??

    I kept saying that I was so not cut out to be a soccer mom. But then something happened. My six-year-old’s team totally gelled. They started to get it. And my kid even scored a goal at Saturday’s game! And there’s me out on the sidelines screaming and cheering like she just finished her first marathon (yes, it always comes back to running!). I was totally and completely psyched.

    The soccer thing gets better. At least for the older kids. I am actually excited about the games now. Well, for my six-year-old at least. I take my knitting to the four-year-old’s practice/game. 😉

    • October 11, 2010 2:17 pm

      Hey Natalie: Ditto on the commitment thing. Amelia has practice 2x a week, plus one game. Feels like a lot to me, but she loves it, so I’ll continue to drive the minivan to practice. 🙂 The good thing is that I don’t get worked up over practices. Just games. Thank God, or I’d probably be in cardiac arrest. 🙂

      • Suzanne permalink
        October 11, 2010 5:04 pm

        That does seem like a lot! Madylin is 7 and they just play one day a week–half hour practice followed by an hour game. She also attends a soccer clinic on Monday nights but that is separate from her team. She was asked to try out for a travel team but then she would be playing with girls 2 years older than her and she’d be practicing 2-3 a week and with Girl Scouts and the school play, we thought that was way too much for a 1st grader. If you’re not careful soccer can become all-encompassing!!

  2. October 11, 2010 7:22 am

    Funny, sweet and right on… Also – so glad you were able to use that photo of me for this blog.

    : )

    • October 11, 2010 2:18 pm

      So glad you made it available to use, PVG. I forgot to thank you… love the new ‘do.

  3. October 11, 2010 8:01 am

    I loved soccer when I was smaller. I played 2 seasons (2nd grade & 4th grade). After that it was…too much running (haha). 🙂

  4. October 11, 2010 8:19 am

    I love being a soccer Mom…the games are fast paced, my son loves it and it could be worse…baseball games can last for hours!! At least you know with soccer that when the last quarter ends you go home 🙂

    • October 11, 2010 2:19 pm

      I definitely like that aspect of it, Jennifer. 2 x 20 minutes, 5 minutes for half, 10 for dispersing snack (the best part) at the end, and we’re headed home. Right on.

  5. Tryna permalink
    October 11, 2010 9:13 am

    I love this post, mostly because I feel we are bonded as Odyssey moms, but also because I also feel like soon I will be giving up Saturday mornings to the kids team sports, although I know it will be worth it. Thanks for helping me see the bigger picture.

    And as a side note, my son Brody, also prefers his somersaults to kicking the ball.

    • October 11, 2010 2:20 pm

      How old is Brody, Tryna? Maybe he and Ben can join gymnastics together. 🙂 As much as I was reluctant to give up Saturday mornings, I find I really enjoy the family aspect of them. We’re usually at the game together; if we weren’t, everybody would be dispersed, doing their own thing.

  6. Julie Fredericks permalink
    October 11, 2010 9:30 am

    Too funny. My oldest son Zach (6) is on his first soccer team this year too. They are also the “Shooting Stars”. Their first game was a blow out – by the other team. I lost count after we were down 12-0. But those kids were awesome. They were having fun and he loves it. This weekend we had our first rainy game and I have never had so much fun standing in the rain. I did squeeze in an hour long run in the rain before the game though!

    • October 11, 2010 2:21 pm

      Way to get the run in, Julie, pre-game. I fantasize about running during her game, but it’ll never happen: I gotta see it. Go Shooting Stars, wherever you are! Win one for us. 🙂

  7. October 11, 2010 9:31 am

    Ha! So funny! This story came outta my brain! I too just embarked on the soccer world, and had a lot of resistance for the same reasons. But i’m sooo glad I’m doing it;-)

    also, fyi…I’m posting about your upcoming appearance at the Athleta store in Mill Valley on my blog. I actually work for Athleta as a ‘try-on’ model (not in the store, at their co), but finally visited the retail store and saw you were coming.

    I hope to be there, but I’m spreading the word;-)

    • October 11, 2010 2:22 pm

      Thanks Anne Marie for relating and spreading the word…would love to see you and your pals there. Will be a good time.

  8. October 11, 2010 9:50 am

    Funny!

    I had to embrace the cliche a few years ago when I got my Odyssey (or Hottesy as my friend Matt calls it), then my sons starting playing soccer, I bought expensive jeans, and got a Costco membership. I feel you. I really do. But they love it (mainly because they get to drink Gatorade) and I love watching them out there having fun.

    • October 11, 2010 2:22 pm

      Kelly: totally stealing that. Hottesy. I hope you don’t mind. 🙂

      You’re right on: soccer is all about the snacks and the drinks. Ben got this awesome doughnut, post-game, on Saturday. It was all I could do to not eat it.

  9. October 11, 2010 10:04 am

    Welcome to your new world, huh? Both our boys (11 and 8) play football (with full pads, yikes) and the younger one plays hockey and I will admit that I love it as much as they do! They are at an age now where the games are exciting to watch.

    After a year of watching the kids play and seeing how much fun team sports can be some friends and I decided to join up with some other friends and form a co-ed broomball team that plays outside through the park & rec. We are clearly the oldest team in the league and play on Sunday mornings against some hung over, carefree 20 year olds. Despite that, we did not win a single game last year and I think only scored a handful of goals. But we have a ton of fun! Broomball is serious cross training, by the way! And it is a riot to hear the boys cheer from the sidelines for us like we cheer for them. I now know that sinking feeling of being the goalie that lets in a goal or what it feels like to get a break away only to fall embarrassingly on my butt and not be able to hit the ball in the net. Either way, it’s fun to be on both sides of the game.

    Last week, our 8 yr old’s team lost by a touchdown scored when the other team’s player ran it all the way in. The kid stepped out of bounds, the ref missed it and the game ended. After the game, I was ready to give him the “that’s how it goes sometimes” talk, but he was bouncing around in a great mood, unphased by it. So, I left it alone. And then he started talking about how they won. I tried to gently correct him, but he was insistent on it. Did the ref change the call? No. But out of the mouth of babes and with a big smile, he says: “The kid totally stepped out of bounds and the ref didn’t see it and he should have and so I don’t think the touchdown should have counted, so in my mind we won! It doesn’t matter what the ref says. It still feels like we’re winners!” I couldn’t argue with that! Have fun!

    • October 11, 2010 2:27 pm

      Awesome comment, Jo. Love the broomball idea–such a MN thing–and the adult team thing. I really miss that as adults. And, once again, our kids prove they’re way more on top of things than we give them credit for. A lesson in there somewhere, right?

  10. Meghan permalink
    October 11, 2010 10:21 am

    As others have said, this post could have been written by me, if I were as witty as you are Dimity. To top things off, I somehow got talked into being the assistant coach for my son’s team (5 yr olds) and I have never played organized soccer in my life! A couple highlights of the season:
    -during the first game one of our players stopped mid field, while chasing the ball, to pick a dandelion flower and give it to his mom on the sidelines!! Wish this had been done by my kid, but it was very sweet to watch.
    -my son, I have discovered, LOVES running. He won’t approach the ball often but loves to run in circles around the other players on the field, just enjoying the wind in his sweaty hair with a smile on his face!

    • October 11, 2010 2:33 pm

      Love that first story, Meghan: that’s the kind of story that lives in family lore forever. You gotta wonder what is going on in these kids minds: why are all these adults screaming at me to chase around this ball? Too funny. Way to step up and coach! (

  11. Jennifer permalink
    October 11, 2010 10:23 am

    My sons have both played soccer. My 6-year old has a language disorder, and we signed him up strictly for the socialization of being on a team. He has played for 2 1/2 years, and he just has fun! My other son- age 9… well, he’s my swimmer and runner- it was just too painful to watch him run up and down the field with no attention to the ball! (ball- what ball?) I just remind myself with my little one- we’re not teaching him soccer yet; right now we’re teaching him how to have fun while playing any sport! Sounds like Amelia has caught onto that already!
    Have fun!

    • October 11, 2010 2:29 pm

      That’s cool, Jennifer, that soccer has helped your younger son. And sounds like your older one might have found his sports already: funny how that kind of naturally happens. When I zoom out and see the bigger picture of sports and what they do, I love it. Hard, sometimes, to remember that on the sidelines. 🙂

  12. October 11, 2010 11:39 am

    Not a soccer mom, but great post. And LOVE that Thing 2 spent half the time doing somersaults! Seriously.

    • Annette M permalink
      October 11, 2010 9:59 pm

      um, Mere… HOW did you escape your kids not playing soccer?!!!! That is crazy! (I’m going to start whispering soccer to Mr. B… jk) : )

  13. Michelle permalink
    October 11, 2010 12:46 pm

    I know just what you mean. My six year old is playing soccer too..I try to focus on this though, as long as she is running hard up and down the field, it is going to pay off when she starts track and field later, right? The sport we really hope our girls take up? Haha!

    • October 11, 2010 2:28 pm

      Hey Michelle: Well, between you and me, I don’t think my kids will be T+F stars. I’m secretly hoping Amelia loves swimming: we’ll see when I put her on swim team next year. In the meantime, keep running!

  14. October 11, 2010 4:20 pm

    I’ve been a dance mom and a swim mom. I’m looking forward to joining the soccer mom crowd with our boy. Great post!

  15. Shirley permalink
    October 11, 2010 5:51 pm

    OMG so been there done that-I used to love the games played at the far fields so that I could run to the game–best season to watch was when my “Thing 2” taught the opponents how to armpit fart. Thing 1 was a daisy picker! Where are they now? Rugby!

  16. Erica Richards permalink
    October 11, 2010 7:43 pm

    Monday afternoon, Ethan’s practice, Tuesday afternoon, Emma’s practice, Thursday afternoon, Emma’s practice, Friday afternoon, Ethan’s practice, Saturday, Ethan’s game, Sunday, Emma’s game…Wednesday evening…all mine, wine, and Survivor. Thank goodness soccer season is only 8 weeks. 🙂 Love the games too though…I’ve been known to scowl at the other parents when they are rude.

  17. Liz permalink
    October 11, 2010 8:58 pm

    I can relate about losing! My daughter’s team–(age 7) which I happen to volunteer coach is getting killed every weekend. (I blame it on the other teams, not my coaching 😉 ) But this weekend I came home and sobbed to my husband that I felt so bad when they got scored on so many times because I just want them to feel some success. They are doing all the right things and learning and having fun– but it just hurt watching them lose. Tough lessons…for all of us.

    • October 12, 2010 9:25 am

      Hey Liz–Definitely the other teams–and not your coaching. 🙂 I often wonder what Amelia’s coach thinks. She’s doing a great job with the skills they have, and unfortunately, that’s not always enough when you’re playing against other teams that have been together for a few years. I try to remember to tell her that when I can, so that she doesn’t think we “blame” her. Way to go to coach: it’s a big job and commitment, so impressive you’re doing it. 🙂

  18. Julie permalink
    October 11, 2010 10:06 pm

    I laughed out loud on this post. My training runs have been pinched between soccer and softball. You will find a way to make it work. The good news is that the kids really aren’t worried about losing. That doesn’t change until parents ask about the score instead of “Did you have fun?” Even the 10 year olds remember the ‘victory tunnel’ more than the game achievement. Enjoy those soccer games!

    For the uninitiated, Victory Tunnels are after AYSO soccer games. Parents from both teams line up in pairs at mid field. They lift arms with their partners forming a tunnel of arm arches. Kids run through with much cheering… often recycling to run thru 2 and 3 times. Clearly, it is the soccer field highlight for the 5-12 crowd!

    • October 12, 2010 9:23 am

      Hey Julie–we do the victory tunnel for ben’s team, but not amelia’s…wonder why that is. But yes, it–plus the snacks, of course–is THE highlight. I love it, looking down at all those heads bobbing through. And I try not to ask about score, but yes, about the fun, did you play well, kick the ball a few times, etc.

  19. Gigi permalink
    October 13, 2010 6:17 pm

    funny funny… our soccer practices are up to three hours long 😦 and in the dirt. YUCK! But I hung in there because both boys love it so much.

    I’ll wait till you post a picture of you wearing that off shoulder blouse a la Victoria Beckham, a la Flashdance……. {{{ smiles }}} You’d look way better than that Posh anyday.

  20. Gina permalink
    October 13, 2010 7:13 pm

    Great post that I can relate to. My kids have been playing soccer since they were about 3 or 4. My son is now 9.5 and plays on 2 soccer teams – a town travel team and a club team. He has 2 practices a week for each team (and the club team practices 40 minutes away from our town). The practices are each 1.5 hours. Don’t forget about the 2 games/week – one on Saturday and one on Sunday. So, he has soccer everyday, except for Friday. We just had a 2 day Columbus Day tournament this past weekend for him. My daughter is 7, and she does town intramural soccer – only on Saturdays from 8:30 to 10 a.m. She can’t wait to play travel next year…the poor thing has been dragged to her brother’s games for years (and he’s been playing fall, winter, and spring for a couple of years).

    My son is amazed at how much I now know about professional soccer. I just can’t help getting into it, because he’s interested. I also scream from the sidelines, although I’ve played alittle with him and I totally stink – so I know how hard it is to play the game.

    Just wait…this could be you!!!

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