Three of my kids are enrolled in our city's fall soccer season. It's the first time for the 9-year-old, and she does rather well running alongside teammates who have been playing for a few years. It's also the first time for the 4-year-old who doesn't care and plays dead on the sidelines if I give any hint that I'm watching. As for the 7-year-old, she also played spring soccer, and she liked it a lot. Also, she's good.
Biased? Sure. Correct? Yes.
Example: We arrived at last week's game a few minutes into the first quarter (we live on one side of town, and the game field is almost as far as you can get from our home without leaving city limits). Her coach put her in immediately. As I was removing my camping chair from its bag, I heard cheers and looked up: she was running the ball down the field, and she scored a goal.
Sitting down in my chair, I sent Darin a text message at ("gooooooal!"). I put down my phone, and while unzipping my camera bag watched as my girl emerged from the swarm around the ball, ran 3/4 the length of the field, and scored another goal.
I saw that Darin had responded ("Awesome!") so I let him know, "Make that dos." Pulling the camera strap around my neck, I watched an instant replay of my daughter emerging from the swarm, and goal #3 was scored.
After she scored her fourth goal within a ten-minute period of time, the coach gave her a break. "Mom! I love scoring those goals! Soccer is so fun!" she panted between gulps from her water bottle. I rubbed her back while she sat on my lap. We cheered for her team, and I couldn't help but wonder to myself: were the other parents annoyed? Was my girl being a Ball Hog? Was she not letting the other girls play enough?
I gently suggested to her, "Honey, when you're out there, how about you pass the ball to your other teammates when you're about to score a goal? Let them have a shot?"
The teenaged boy (older brother of another player) next to me scoffed at my suggestion. "Keep scoring those goals!" Then, looking at me, "No one's even around her when she tears down the field like that."
After a short stint as goalie, she was put in as a forward again and scored two more goals, for a total of six. Her team ended up winning the game, 6-5. She got some congratulatory high-fives, and as we walked to the van, I asked her, "So, how was the game for you?" Her answer: "Great! And I'm glad I have energy for dance class tomorrow."
The other parents from our team gave encouraging cheers for the entire team, and referred to my daughter as, "The Goal-Scorer." They did nothing to suggest that they were, or would be, bothered in the slightest by my daughter's performance on the soccer field.
What was I worried about?
I guess I was worried about a chain-reaction. What if the parents were annoyed, and they said so on their way home from the game, and then the kids overheard, and then my daughter's teammates began to tease her and she no longer wanted to play? Never give that mouse a cookie, I guess.
Soccer is a team sport, right? Should I encourage her to engage her teammates because it's How The Game Is Played, and at this age they're Just Learning? Or not be concerned about when she scores all the goals because at this age, a huge portion of what they take away is whether or not they won the game? Cyndi made an excellent point: "It's soccer, which means that if you want to play you have to hustle. If parents are worried about their kids getting equal play time, they should sign them up for baseball."
More than anything, I was worried that my reaction to my daughter's goal-scoring was to worry about what others think. Because -- what is that? And where's it coming from? All these fears (are they fears?) that the fact that she's a good soccer player could be pointed out to her with a negative connotation; that comments of the negative variety could cause her to question herself, or not try her best, or give up on an activity she enjoys simply to avoid the people involved.
I know I'm over-thinking it. Hopefully she'll continue to play as long as she enjoys it (and enjoy it as long as she plays). And I'm crossing my fingers that the group of parents (myself included) at all the games will be supportive of all the kids out there just trying to have a good time.
What do you say about this? Have you had experience with this kind of thing? Do you support your kids' teammates unconditionally? Do you feel your kids are supported, or worry that they're not?