You’ve probably seen the Soccer Mom video that explains the three different types of soccer moms: the one that sits and reads a magazine or book and has no concept of the game; the overprotective mom slathering sunscreen on her kids, with orange slices at the ready during half time; and the one that knows every detail and every player in the game. The last, while well-intentioned, is probably the most annoying of the three. And that’s me.
I am a Soccer Mom of the highest degree.
I didn’t start out that way, hell, I didn’t even know much about the game. I’m a creative type, a graphic designer who would spend more time making elaborate birthday cards for my kids or sifting through estate sales for fantastic, bizarre finds.
When my daughter was in the second grade, my husband was our daughter’s coach and I’d just stand on the sidelines yelling, “Go Purple People Eaters!” or “Go [insert team name].” But after a few years of this, a competitive nature began to emerge. I tired of sitting with the other parents and discussing which Harry Potter book my daughter was reading. I wanted to be the parent cheering on the players by name, giving them pep talks and advice. “Erin, let the midfielders control the ball and pass forward!” “Ruby, give yourself room in the box for the free kick.” You know, not annoying — helpful!Did I embarrass my daughter? Sure. Did I enjoy both the coaching and the embarrassment? Definitely.
Then, hallelujah, I found someone who shared my passion. My friend Kathy and I both had daughters the same age and similar coaching methods — but we balanced each other out. She was the good cop to my bad cop. If I told one of the girls they needed to hustle, Kathy would tell the same girl that she had never seen her kick the ball so hard. Kathy and I would spend hours deciding formations until we devised the perfect game plan.
After losses, we would meet at the Ale House, a local pub in Chicago. Kathy would have a glass of white wine and I would have a beer. We would methodically go through every play and discuss all the should-of-would-of-could-ofs from the mornings game. For seven years we coached like this. We had relatively good seasons, made it to the finals a couple times, and even made it to the playoffs, only to fall short.
Our dedication culminated during our last year as coaches when we ended up in the top bracket with our team, “The Red Hot Chili Peppers.” To dress as the champions we hoped to be, Kathy found two soft red velour tracksuits at Marshalls that we wore for all the playoff games. Near perfection (let’s just say, I wish she had gotten me a slightly bigger size — thank goodness for SPANX).
We won our first game, and our second.
For the final game, held in the late afternoon on a chilly fall night, those velour suits came in handy. We’d played the opposing team earlier in the season and knew it was going to be a tough one. Nevertheless, Kathy and I were pumped. We gave our team the best pep talk we could think of (no recollection of what it was), we ran up and down the sidelines, yelling tactics to the players.
The game was a nail biter. The score was tied 2-2 and there were five minutes left in the second half. Overtime and penalty kicks? Not an option. Then one of our girls got the ball, took it up the side, crossed, and our forward took a shot… we WON!
Kathy and I yelled, cried and jumped — we were totally out of control. Here were two 40-year-old women dressed in tight velour pants running around in circles. I’m not sure who was more excited — the team or us. We look back at that day and wonder why no one videotaped that game. If someone had, we would watch it at least once a month to relive the championship glory.
Did I embarrass my daughter? Sure. Did I enjoy both the coaching and the embarrassment? Definitely.
How can being a Soccer Mom be a bad thing? I wouldn’t trade the fun I had with those girls or the miles logged driving to every suburb outside of Chicago for anything. My kids know I’m going to try and make every game and celebrate with them on the wins and give them hugs when it’s a loss.
Now my daughter plays club soccer at the University of Illinois. And yes, I have been to 99% of her games. I’ve left my house at 5 am to get to a soccer game three hours away at Purdue University just to watch her play two games. I’ve also met many other soccer moms, some more intense than others, and I love them all. Because being a Soccer Mom is about more than just watching my daughter play soccer. It’s about being a part of a community, making life-long friendships. They say soccer is “The Beautiful Game” and that’s true, but it also makes for a beautiful life.