I consider myself an up-and-coming professional soccer mom. Now before you go jumping to unfair conclusions about soccer momming involving helicopter-piloting, ref-abusing, World Cup-aspiring craziness, let me give you my definition of a soccer mom. The ultimate soccer mom has the ability to follow the game and she genuinely loves the game. She has a good handle on gear, skills, rules, team size and positions. She has soft skills such as communicating well with coaches and parents, having the “right” gear for soccer practices, games and tournaments, and having good ideas on fuel for her little athletes pre and post game. Finally, she has a sense of humor about her role as a soccer mom and her kid’s ability, or lack thereof.
So I claim to be an aspiring pro at soccer momming. Where does that put me on the spectrum of the ideal I described? As in all other aspects of parenthood, I am woefully inadequate. But in the spirit of self-examination and improvement, I want to break it down. Five categories, ten points each: knowledge of the game, parental soft skills, parent gear, love of the game, and self-awareness/sense of humor.
Knowledge: The low end of this spectrum starts with the wonderful Juliet Stevenson who played Keira Knightley’s mom in “Bend It Like Beckham.” Her husband hilariously tries to explain the offside rule to her using condiments. “The offside rule is when the French mustard has to be between the teriyaki sauce and the sea salt.” Brilliant. Top scores go to those who can name 3 or more synonyms each for “defender” and “forward”. (I swear there are unlimited names for these positions.) Bonus points for anyone who understands the World Cup seeding and draw.
Soft skills: Here’s where the helicopter parent and soccer stage parent fail. You know that Facebook meme that makes the rounds at the beginning of every youth sports season (so, you know, constantly)? Something like, “Please remember, these are kids, this is a game, coaches are volunteers, refs are human, no scouts from [name your favorite pro team] will be here today.” The parents for whom these reminders were penned get a goose egg here. You know exactly who I’m talking about. Those who can gracefully and diplomatically communicate with a coach or ref to promote their child and/or their cause without eliciting a single eye roll from other parents get a 10.
Parent gear: This is especially critical in Colorado where, as I write this on April 30, all soccer games have been canceled due to SNOW. Parent gear is the stuff that keeps us chauffeurs and fans happy during practices, games or never-ending tournaments. The bottom dwellers are the people who are constantly getting sunburned or frostbitten (and hey, in Colorado that can happen on the same day!), who don’t have anything to sit on, who have no refreshments for themselves or their kids, and who are generally miserable from first whistle to the post game parent tunnel. Top scores for those who have collapsible wagons packed efficiently with canopied chairs with cupholders, blankets, sunscreen, winter gear, summer gear, an actual tent for smaller children and pets to play in, and a cooler with snacks, Gatorade, and a few adult beverages (disguised neatly in Starbucks insulated mugs). Soccer momming on a Saturday morning is infinitely better with covert mimosas.
Love for the game: Okay, I’ve got this one mastered. In the summer of 1998, after my first year of law school, my newlywed husband and I planned to do some exploring throughout the northeast. We were living in a sweet little spot, Canandaigua, New York, which was roughly a six hour drive from everywhere exciting on the east coast. Imagine my dismay when those plans were derailed by the 1998 World Cup. Instead of sightseeing, my husband spent the entire month of June on the couch absorbing every televised minute of the action. I could either be a World Cup widow or I could join him on the couch. I chose the latter and have since become an involved and avid soccer fan over the past 18 years. We’ve traveled to Chicago, New York, Pasadena and Columbus, Ohio more times than I can count to see big games. Seeing a World Cup in person is definitely on my bucket list. So yeah, I understand and LOVE this game. That’s a 10, my friends. The lower scores go to those of you who would rather be waterboarded than spend one additional minute watching soccer beyond those that your darling children already subject you to. (Which is how I feel about youth baseball. Ohmygod, just shoot me.)
Finally, your self-awareness and sense of humor. Refer back to the “soft skills” discussed above. Let’s say you have zero soft skills. Do you know you are a complete jackass when you watch your kid play? Or are you blissfully ignorant? If you don’t even understand what I mean about having a sense of humor and being self aware, I’m sorry, but you get a zero. Just stop reading now and join me again the next time I post. The rest of you likely understand what I’m getting at. Most of us should fall in the middle of this spectrum because, lets be honest, sometimes our parental pride makes us adorably blind to our child’s shortcomings. But if we are forced, via some method of Donald Trump endorsed torture, we have the ability to be honest about our kid and ourselves, we earn a higher score. We know that we shouldn’t have flipped out when our kid had 30 less seconds of playing time, and we feel super bad about giggling at the other team’s own goal. We are appropriately sheepish about googling the college scholarship rate of the various soccer clubs in our area, but you bet your ass we have alerts set up to notify us when those stats are updated. We know that this is all in fun, it’s just a game, and these are awesome memories that we’re building and these times will be over all too soon, so we have to laugh at every opportunity and enjoy every minute.
Someday I won’t be a soccer mom anymore and I will bitterly mourn the loss of that part of my identity. So for now, I will relish the hot mess that is our Saturday morning. I will roll my eyes without abandon at every douchebag parent who’s convinced their son will play in the Premier League one day. I am going to go buy that damned collapsible wagon because I think it is totally rad. And I’ll keep aspiring to add more points to my tally. If you’re curious about my soccer momming status, I rate myself at about a 36/50 (7-7-5-10-7). I’ve got some work to do.