I am not typically one to read magazine articles but I just found myself chuckling at an article in the “Philadelphia” magazine. The article is about a parent struggling with the decision to sign up a child for travel soccer or not. Oh how I can relate to this parent!
When I was a child my parents were divorced. I was raised by a single working mother who made it clear that after a hard week at work she would not spend her free time carting us around to sporting events. If we wanted to participate in anything outside of school it would need to be with a friend whose parent was willing to take us also. This may sound rough but now as a parent I understand (most of the time).
Many would say that my husband and I over compensate at times. On top of school, my children both take music lessons, karate and play sports. I remember a few years ago attempting to arrange for parties on the weekend and having many friends reply with “I am sorry but we have (fill in sport)”. I would be left feeling a bit annoyed and would swear that our life would not be like that. I was dead set that we would not have our lives controlled by any sport.
That all changed one night last summer when we received a phone call from Megan’s parks and rec soccer coach explaining that he had made the decision to coach at the travel level and that he was hoping to see Megan try out. I was not thrilled with the idea but she really wanted to do it. Of course we allowed it and the rest is history. I am now the parent of the starting, (and only) goalkeeper on the team. The girls practice twice a week and our Saturdays are spent on the fields. Holiday weekends mean tournament play and for our child extra camps which cost extra money to improve her skills in-goal.
For some it sounds just awful and I will admit it is not for everyone. For our family, it seems right. We enjoy watching our girls play and improve. We have bonded with many “team” families. I also believe that the competition that comes with the travels program is very important. We live in a world of trophies for all, everybody plays and no winners or losers. For the young ones that is fine but there comes a time in life when it is time to learn reality. Life is filled with ups and downs, wins and losses. It is up to parents and coaches to teach that winning is not everything but showing up prepared to “play” is a must be it sport, school, work or life in general . Healthy competition as a child helps to prepare for the push and pull that they will experience through life.
I guess as time has passed I have become a “soccer mom”. I do refuse to put one of those soccer ball magnets on my car. We all have to draw the line somewhere :-).
Tomorrow Megan’s soccer team is playing in a soccer tournament. Our township is hosting this one which is nice, short ride to the field and the ability to stop home between games if we want. The tournament itself started tonight but her team has all 3 games tomorrow.
After an awful fall with no wins a tie and the rest losses, the coach made some changes. First he brought on an assistant to help him to work more closely with the girls in practice. The practices are definitely more high impact and the girls are more focused. He also pointed out something that we all saw very clearly, our little girls were in terrible shape. They would come onto the field full of steam to play but within a few minutes were out of gas. By the second half our girls were flat-footed to put it nicely.
Do not misunderstand me, none of us parents cared about the losses but seeing 7-8 year olds unable to play for the full-time was concerning. Twice a week in practice they now start and finish with a half mile run for a total of 1 mile. The first time Megan had to complete the run we had tears, lots of them! Before she even started she told me she would never be able to finish. It was tough for me to watch, I even went out and jogged part of the last lap with her to try to get her through.
It has been 4 weeks now and the results are showing. The team’s record is 2-1-1 and they play much stronger. With the tournament this weekend all of the fields have been closed in preparation. Coach wanted to make sure the girls were focused so he had them show up at the park Thursday night for a run. When we arrived we were informed that the distance would be 2 miles. No timers, no winners just finish and NO walking. Wow…I will admit I was worried. I whispered in Megan’s ear a reminder, breath, pace yourself and do not worry about what anyone else is doing or where you are in the group just stay focused and finish.
I stood with the father of another girl from the team and we watched the girls pass us, (each lap is a half mile). After the first mile I gave her a small drink and told her how great she was doing. After the next lap she was struggling but on ward she went. At the end of the fourth lap the coach patted each girl on the back as they came across told them to grab a water and walk one more for cool down. I walked with her with pride. My baby who literally almost collapsed the first run had just completed twice the distance with no tear and told me that although her legs felt like jelly she felt great!
I will admit that at first I thought the coach was a bit rough. He was asking too much from little kids. Sometimes it takes events like this to remind me, although I want to protect them from every ouch, every pain, I can not wrap them in bubble wrap. The best way to protect them is to ensure that they are strong, healthy and confident. I don’t know what the results of the games will be but I am sure that the girls will play hard and with confidence, and in the end that is all we could ever hope.
I don’t know how people with 3+ children do it! This weekend was the first of what we will call a normal weekend for the forseeable future. Saturday Morning started with a 10:30 am piano lesson for Megan. I took her to that because Madison had a soccer game at 11:30 and Frank is the assistant coach. Megan and I planned to go right to the game until we received the panicked phone call from Frank that he had lost his wallet. I always love calls like that, I mean I did not have the wallet. What made this loss more important than the normal “can’t find my wallet” dance is the fact that he had to drive to Washington DC Saturday night for a convention and needed photo ID to get in.
Funny, I can vote without photo ID but Frank was going to be unable to attend his convention without one.
Megan and I changed course after her lesson and headed home. We were in the house under 5 minutes when I was able to locate the wallet..thankfully. I don’t understand how this happens so often. I place my purse and keys in the exact same spots every time I enter the house. When I need them, I know exactly where to go. At least once a week we search for something that belongs to my husband and after all of these years I guess that is something that will not change.
So back across town for Megan and I to catch Madison’s game. We arrived just in time. It was hot and humid. The kids energy levels faded quickly due to the heat. At Madison’s age they do not keep score, which is a good thing :-)! They tried and we were all happy when the game was over. They all looked like they had been swimming.
Back home for some lunch and preparation for Megan’s soccer game. By late afternoon it was even hotter but there was at least a small breeze making it tolerable to sit in the full sun. I need to buy a hat. AFter the game back home for FRank to pack and head to Washington.
On Sunday Madison and I sat and completed her first school project. It was an “All about me” poster. The kids could draw pictures if they were not able to fill in the answers but Madison would have none of it. She would answer the question and I would spell each word as she filled in the lines. Then we colored it together. This took a while to complete. When we were finished, she was so pleased with herself…and I was very proud I must admit!
I am happy that the girls go back to school tomorrow, I need a day off!