Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Soccer Mom's Dilemma

One of my most pleasant surprises (and reliefs) in life has been how much I enjoy watching my kids during their games. See, while Darin has a long personal history of soccer and basketball and football and baseball games, I am not exactly a team sports fan. I'd seen the Super Intense Soccer Dad in action -- yelling while running up and down the field, even yelling over the coach, all while wearing a soccer jersey (are they called jerseys? I don't even know), and knew I didn't want (nor could I, really) be THAT, but . . . I actually was afraid that I would be a parent with little-to-no interest in my kids' athletic pursuits, and would not want to attend games, or would end up going to games and hating every second. Imagine my delight to find out how satisfying it is to watch my kids participate in any sport, stink and sweat and all. Silly Mommy to have worried.


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.

Very 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?


LuLu said...

You know what Jenny, I have been on both sides of this scenario and it is my belief that some kids are super natural. And some kids take a little longer for things to click. So I say, Just teach her to be a generous team leader and you will have no problems!

Queen Scarlett said...

I want to be there CHEERING up a storm for her. Dude. She is awesome.
We are dancers here. I wanted to get the girls into soccer this year, but they both protested.

Organized sports tend to scare me. BUT, your experience is making me think again.


The Lewis Family said...

I totally understand your feelings. When J was invited to try out for a 7-10 yr old competition dance team and she was only 4 soon to be 5, I was worried about how others would respond and then treat her. She did it again this year, she made the next highest team and she is only 5 turning 6, so we get to go through the feelings all over again.

I think it isn't so much we care what others think but we care how they will react to such thoughts and how it might affect our children.


Gerb said...

If she's awesome, she's awesome. My guess is the other kids/parents are happy to have her on the team because it means more goals. That's how I feel about watching ElemenoB at basketball - she's not very aggressive so I love seeing the other girls do well for the team. There was one talented girl on the team who DID bug me, but that was because she was a brat about it and treated everyone else on the team like they were idiots who did not deserve to play with her.

In short, I say: let her shine!

Mrs. Organic said...

I agree with Cindy. It's a sport where you hustle. Maybe you could explore placing her on a league/try-out team where the players are more likely to be at a similar ability level. That way she will be challenged and her skill set will grow.

Naomi said...

Your daughter sounds like a natural, it's not like she was avoiding passing the ball to a team mate who could make a better shot! Be proud and don't worry!

(Also, in the UK we call them football shirts, no jerseys here!)

wendysue said...

I'm chiming in late but here's my thoughts. . .there are plenty of people in the world and plenty of times in her life that she'll be knocked. Like Gerb said, If she's awesome, she's awesome! And that's awesome! It's not like she taking the ball all by herself and heading down the field and missing the goals. She's got skills. I also agree with the others that at that age, it's totally about winning, no matter what the parents think, those other kids are going bonkers when she scores a goal! Be a proud Mother Hen. :)