When I was younger, I loved to play baseball. I started tee-ball at the age of five and played up until my sophomore year of high school. It was the thing I loved to do the most and I can still recall some of the best plays I made during my 13 years on the field. When I became a parent hoped that my children would find something they loved as much as I loved playing baseball and if I were lucky, I knew there was a small possibility that they would share the same love for baseball that I did. So, when my daughter turned five, I did what any self-respecting former athlete would do. I signed her up for tee-ball!
Much to my chagrin we made it through two seasons before she decided that tee-ball was boring, and she wanted to quit. I spoke to her about what it means to make a commitment and told her that once the season was over, if she no longer wanted to play then we could find something else. And that is exactly what we did. She tried taekwondo, she tried gymnastics, she also served a short stint as a cheerleader but none of those things seemed to stick. Right around the time she began losing interest in cheerleading my son was turning five, so we decided once again to try our hand at tee-ball and once again our child was not happy so after he fulfilled his commitment, we allowed him to quit and both kids took a short break from sports.
Just as I was beginning to accept that neither of my children were interested in athletics it happened, the day I had always dreaded!
I picked them up from their afterschool program where they were planning a small talent show and both kids announced that they’d be doing soccer for the talent show. Soccer? Neither of my them knew anything about soccer outside of what may or may not have been taught in gym class, so this came as a surprise to me. They then announced that they wanted me to sign them up to play on a soccer team. My heart sank! I tried to avoid the request and I am embarrassed now to say that it took multiple requests from each child before I bit the bullet and did some research on local soccer programs.
I had always been of the mind set that I’d never be a soccer mom. The middle-class suburban housewife who drove a minivan and donned her yoga pants at every opportunity while sipping her six-dollar latte was never something I aspired to be, and I often criticized that type of parent for being so predictable.
So, while desperately clinging to the idea that even if my children played the game, I would still be me and wouldn’t allow myself to be pushed into the stereotypical mold that is a soccer mom, I put my kid’s happiness before my own and I signed them up for their first season of soccer. One season quickly spiraled into multiple and eventually turned into my husband and sister-in-law coaching teams for one or both of my children at any given time due to a lack of volunteers.
I had to admit, soccer was a harder sport than I realized, it was a fast-paced game that required both skill and stamina It was also more fun to watch than I had previously imagined. I began to enjoy going to practices and games and sure, my kids played soccer, but I still didn’t drive the minivan and I didn’t live at the field, so I didn’t fit the stereo type. My kids played casually they didn’t play club soccer. That soccer mom stereotype must’ve been molded to fit club moms because It didn’t fit the mom of a casual player.
And then it happened again!
The day came when my husband and I realized that our children really loved the game and if they wanted to be able to keep playing then they needed more than what our local city program could offer them. So, I swallowed my pride and did research on the local club soccer programs and signed them up for tryouts. Both kids made their respective teams.
A new journey was about to begin, and we had no idea what we were in for.
What came next was a whirlwind of games, practices, camps, and private training sessions. My daughter being older needed a helping hand in bridging the skill gap between herself and her teammates and the other parents were kind enough to offer suggestions for private trainers or extra classes she could take to catch up and while it was helpful, I felt like there were ulterior motives behind their willingness to share their knowledge. You know what they say, the team is only as good as its weakest link, or something like that.
A few practices in to their first season of club soccer we were invited to go to dinner with a few of my daughter’s teammate’s families after training. They were an especially social group, and this was something we’d need to start getting used to, but I didn’t have a problem with that, in fact I welcomed it. It reminded me of the comradery I experienced when I played youth sports and I was happy that my daughter had found her place.
Whenever these group outings would occur the girls would get excited and would often negotiate with their parents on who they could ride with to games or other events. The first time that it was decided that they wanted to ride with us was the moment I realized why all the families owned SUV’s or minivans. My daughter was ecstatic as she and several of her teammates approached me asking if they could ride with us to dinner. At that point, my husband and I both drove small four door vehicles and there was no way I was going to be able to fit multiple10-year-olds in my tiny Volkswagen. The disappointment on my daughter’s face was deafening. I looked at my husband and we both knew what was coming. Several weeks later (while wearing my jet-black yoga pants) we traded in my husband’s Silver Saturn Ion for our first minivan, a grey Honda Odyssey with third row seating and plenty of storage space.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen!
I was officially a middle-class, yoga pant wearing, minivan driving, mother of two club soccer players. And I didn’t feel any different! I still felt like me. The only thing that had changed was the way I viewed the stereotype that was the proverbial soccer mom. I was now one and I had an inside look at what a soccer mom really is.
When I look at my fellow soccer moms, I see truth, I see strength, and I see sacrifice.
I see the single mom who works days and goes to school at night so she can provide her daughter with all the opportunities she never had.
I see the working mom who spends a full eight-hour day in the office and then spends her evening rushing her children to their games and practices, with no time to change her clothes or grab a snack. She is usually seen on the sidelines in full business attire with her heels sinking into the grass.
I see the mom with multiple kids whose husband travels for work and even though it can be difficult to ask others for help, she does, for the benefit of her children.
I see the teacher working on her lesson plans from the sideline of her child’s practice because as important as it is for her to be there for her kids, she wants to show up for yours too!
I see the team mom, who struggles as much as the rest of us but pushes herself even harder to make sure that we are all organized and where we need to be when we need to be there because she knows life is hard and we need to support each other.
These mothers are pigeonholed based on observations made by those outside the sports world and although some of the descriptions may be accurate, they don’t provide you with a full picture. Soccer moms are a support system, they are a team! A team I’m proud to be a part of.
We don the yoga pants because they are comfortable and easy to throw on at a moment’s notice.
We drink the latte’s because we are tired and in desperate need of caffeine.
We buy the minivans so our kids can stay connected on and off the field and so that we can help each other with the kids when one of us has a little too much on her plate and needs a helping hand.
Soccer isn’t just a sport, it is a community, one I’m glad my children chose for us.
Oh, and to lacrosse mom on the other side of the aisle trying to keep her son from hitting passersby with his stick as he unpacks his gear for another practice: I’ve been there! Your next latte is on me!
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