The soccer season is coming to an end. I am sad. I love watching my 6- and 7-year-old boys play. The only good news is that I won’t be embarrassing myself for a while.
I will no longer run down the sidelines as my sons dribble the ball down the field – so close they could pass it to me and I’d have a shot on goal. I will no longer be throwing my shoulder out of socket as I whirl my arm like a propeller on a breakaway. And I will no longer have to ignore my friends, who are trying to socialize with me while watching their children in the exact same game.
I will become a normal parent again. I will talk in sentences that don’t include “Well done!” “That away!” and “Go ,go, go!” I will resume normal activities. Saturdays will just be Saturdays again. I won’t have to wrestle with shin guards and unyielding soccer socks. I won’t have to race from one field where Frankie is playing to the other field where Tommy is playing, so that I won’t miss a single second. And I won’t have to wear bright red for Tommy’s team one hour and change into blue for Frankie’s the next.
I’m kidding; I don’t wear their team colors. Come on. Oh sure, I used to but I don’t anymore. I keep my clothes neutral. See, I have to stay under the radar or other parents will notice as I jump up and down in sudden bursts of utter joy or deep despair. There are rules for parents in soccer leagues. As a parent, you are absolutely not allowed to “coach” your children from the sidelines. That is the coach’s job.I know the rules. I don’t coach my sons or any of the other children on their teams. I just shout their names and tell them what a good job they are doing.
One of my friends from high school, a great soccer player named Chris Baer, who now coaches and works for U.S. Soccer Management, gave me the best advice I’d ever heard about parent etiquette on the sidelines. He said, “Shouting at your children as they play soccer is like walking into their classroom and shouting, ‘Do your math! Come on, add! Subtract! Divide! Multiply!’ while they are taking a test.” After that conversation, I swore to myself that I would never shout any of my pointers, despite how constructive they were. Now, it is positive reinforcement only.
I concentrate on thinking, “Who cares if they win or lose, as long as they are having fun?” But, I’ll be honest, I struggle with it because I kind of care. I don’t care if they win. I care if my sons try their best. I care that they participate. I care if they pay attention to their coaches and listen when they are talking. I do. When on a team, I think everyone has an important part to play and should give it their all. Or try, at least. That’s what I call fun.
I enjoy how playing sports, especially team sports like soccer, provides opportunities to teach my boys lessons about life skills. I use it as a metaphor for their futures. When you see the ball, do you run for it or back away? When you have the ball, do you look up, see your options and pass, or do you hold on to it because you have a good shot and deliver? When you’re down a point or two, do you fight back harder or give up? When someone makes a great play, do you congratulate them?
One more weekend and it’s over. The sweet glances at mom and dad after they make a great play will be few and far between. I’ll spend Sunday packing away their shin guards. And then I’ll start pulling out their baseball gloves. And soon I’ll be embarrassing myself all over again.
Maryann Castronovo can be reached at email@example.com.
Rest in peace, Andy Rooney.