That’s right everyone! It’s SOCCER season! Perhaps for some of you Texans and Californians, it’s been soccer season for a while already. But here in the Frozen North soccer season is just now starting because the fields are (usually) not covered with snow anymore in mid-April. (I’m not holding my breath though.)
As of Saturday 3/4 of my children will be fully enrolled in the worldwide association of little soccer champs! (Not really. If there is such an organization I don’t think we could afford to join it.)
Last year my oldest played on the U6 team. You know what it looks like, right? A giant amoeba following a ball around with an occasional score… and hopefully in the right goal. Still, they were developing enough skills that it did appear to be an actual game.
My four year old, last year, played on his U4 team which consisted of seven 3 and 4 year olds poking a ball around in circles while some of them sat down and picked grass and dandelions. My son had a particular affliction that involved very fat socks in a skinny pair of miniature cleats. He spent most of his games sitting in the middle of the field, taking off of his shoes and socks and throwing them towards the sidelines, plunking himself down with a scowl across his face and his wee little arms crossed in protestation at the cruelty that was this thing (that he had begged to do) called soccer. His coaches were always very nice and kindly swooped him up, delivering him to me so that I could force his shoes back onto his unhappy feet. He would be shod and ready for the game just in time for snacks (which was his real reason for liking soccer last year.) I think he played for all of 10 minutes the whole entire season.
This year the sock flinger will be on the U6 team and will probably not spend the better part of each game day throwing his footwear around. He’s very excited to play and has displayed a healthy tolerance of soccer shoes in our family fun times at the fields. Not to mention he can really boot that thing! He’s so full of energy and drive, I think he might turn out to be one of the star players.
I also have a three year old entering the fray this year. We’ll see how this little experiment goes. You know, it’s mostly about the parents of course. We just want to point and giggle and cheer them on and make them think they are little tiny sports professionals. We just love the look of tiny cleats. Giant shirts and knicker length shorts. Oh! And itty-bitty shin guards on chubby little calves. A miniature soccer ball being bumbled into a Smurfy little goal net! **Be still my beating heart!** The cuteness is just too much to resist! And the added bonus is that it gets them excited about the game (or the daisies.)
My oldest, this year, is on the U8 team where they actually strive to follow a few more rules. Where techniques are starting to be taught. But the children still spend half the time karate chopping each other or doing the gangly uncoordinated 7 year old equivalent of the River Dance on the sidelines.
This brings me to the real point of this entire post, that being this: What is the role of the parent at these soccer games? I am a soccer lover. I played as a small child and in high school as well. I L-O-V-E playing soccer! I had to fight the urge to play on the grown up women’s team that I saw advertised in our community. My husband, as well, spent his sweet bad-haired wonder years wearing the too-short itchy shorts of 80’s youth soccerdom. We just love seeing the little guys get so excited about soccer!
Now, I am an encouraging Mom by nature. But I am also a challenging Mom. (While I’m sure I am a challenge to live with at times, by “challenging” I mean that I often issue achievable yet gotta-work-for-it challenges to my kids.) I always cheer my kids on and tell them that they are doing a great job and that I’m so proud of them. But at the same time I want them to improve. (not the three year old, by the way.)
Is that wrong?
As a soccer mom, am I to be only a cheerleader or can I be half cheerleader and half “mom-coach”? Can I give him little tips after high-fiving him and telling him how proud I am of him hustling his cute little buns out there? (I never tell him anything involving the words, “cute little buns” just so you know.) If other parents hear me say something like, “You are doing awesome!! Now, if you get the ball and you’re right in front of your own net, you want to turn it to the outside of the field, not the inside because that makes it easier for the other team to get…” are they going to be cussing me out in their heads (or worse, outloud!), “Hey lady! They’re kids! Just let them have fun. Don’t worry about technique. What do you think this is, the World Cup?”
I certainly am not the type to place success over good sportsmanship. But at the same time I am highly competative (just admitting one of my faults… tryin’ to keep it real!) so I want to communicate to my very polite son that he’s allowed to take the ball away from someone on the other team. And that he’s allowed to be determined to keep it when he gets it. I sort of look at it as how I encourage him in school. I encourage him and cheer him on when he does his best, even if he gets something wrong and then we explore what he did wrong and we fix it so that he can overcome that problem with greater ease the next time he encounters it.
I definitely do not take soccer as seriously as I do school obviously! (That was just an analogy.) It’s for fun after all!! But at the same time he is pretty small for his age so I would like, for his sake for him to have skill on his side since size never will be. So is it wrong for me to give him suggestions and advice alongside the profuse praise that I heap upon him?
Soccer moms, speak out! What drives you nuts about other parents on the sidelines? Where do you think the line is between being a helpful encourager an annoying sideline parent?