It’s that time of year. The days get shorter, the nights get cooler, and the weekends find parents loading up the minivan and chauffeuring their progeny to fields far and near. It’s youth soccer season. For years my family has participated in this rite of fall, as children of all ages in neon-colored soccer uniforms swarm the local parks. I’d like to share the wisdom I have gained over these twenty plus years with a little advice for soccer moms and dads.
First of all, stock up on soccer socks and shin guards. One pair never seems to be enough, as they are never in the right place on Saturday morning when you are searching frantically for them without even the benefit of your first cup of coffee. Along those lines, start eyeballing the foot sizes of your friends’ and neighbors’ children to see if you can snag any hand-me-down soccer cleats. Those things get expensive.
Second, hit Sam’s Club or Costco for large cartons of various junky snacks, which you will be required to provide after one or more of junior’s games. Never mind the fact that they had breakfast right before the game and they only played for 45 minutes, barely breaking a sweat. Good snacks and juice boxes are a non-negotiable requirement of soccer.
Third, invest in serious sun, rain, and cold gear for the hours you will spend on the sidelines watching your kids play. No matter how beautiful the previous week’s weather was, invariably on the weekends it will turn hot and muggy or freezing cold with pelting rain. I recently saw a folding camp chair that had a plastic bubble surrounding it. That’s about what you need to protect yourself.
Once at the game, swallow that Valium so that you can tolerate the crazed yelling and sideline coaching of other parents. (Never mind the fact that none of them ever played the sport in their lives.) You would think these pint-sized dynamos were in line for a four-year college scholarship the way parents carry on. Even someone near and dear to me (who shall remain nameless) has been kicked off soccer fields for unsportsmanlike behavior.
After the game, do nothing before you get that uniform and those socks into the presoak cycle of your washing machine. Institute a rule that soccer cleats are not allowed to touch the floors in your house. That’s what the garage is for. Get a cheap knife to scrape the mud and grass off of them.
Above all, remember that youth soccer is intended for exercise, fresh air, and FUN. Sit back and enjoy, whether your child is the next Cristiano Ronaldo or just a gangly kid having a good time with friends.