At our house, the major sports focus is soccer. My kids are small and skinny - we just aren’t built for football or basketball. Even though I never played on a team myself, I always seemed to hang out with kids who did, so I grew up around it. My husband played soccer up through high school, and so when we started trying to figure out what kinds of activities we would try with our boys, soccer seemed the natural fit. My youngest also plays baseball, and both boys enjoy swim team and the occasional golf outing with dad, but soccer is the main game.
Plus, I knew what I was getting myself into when I bought a minivan all those years ago. I am soccermom, hear me roar. Or see me skid down the street late for another practice. Same thing.
It’s not just our family that’s drawn to the game of soccer. In the Kansas City area where we live, over 83,000 kids play soccer, 55% are between the age of 6-12, according to Andy Tretiak, Vice President of Marketing for Sporting Kansas City, the Major League Soccer team formerly called the Kansas City Wizards.
That’s a lot of kids, and it’s the reason that Overland Park, the city in which we live, built a $38 million dollar state of the art sports complex focused on soccer.
Last year, we realized that if our ten-year-old was going to continue to play soccer, he would need the more focused, professional coaching that comes at the competitive club level as opposed to recreation leagues with parent coaches. In club leagues, you typically pay for a professional coach who teaches more than just the basic rules of the game and good sportsmanship - they teach individual skills, athletic conditioning, game strategy and team development. It’s a big commitment, both in money and time.
We hemmed and hawed over it, for a number of reasons. The money and the time commitment were significant- two practices a week, and one-to-two games every weekend, all year long. (Fall and spring outdoor seasons, and a winter indoor season.) I am not the mom who enrolls my kid in every activity available just to keep them busy, I am a slacker mom. I’m also a free-range mom - I want my kids to have the time to play outside, unstructured, without the eagle eye of a paranoid parent. I want them to be kids, while they still can.
But the bigger issue for me was the higher level of competition. I am not a very competitive person, in fact I sort of shrink away from situations and people that are. I didn’t have a lot of self-esteem as a kid, I was geeky and weird and uncoordinated - basically I was the girl version of Fregley. So it is a natural instinct of mine not to get involved in situations where I might fail - and that extends to guarding my kids from failure. My brain says “they need to fail sometimes, Jen,” but my heart screams “No! It will damage their precious little ego.” The other side of this, of course, is my husband saying “you coddle them too much. They’ll be fine!”
This is not an unknown battle in parenting, I think.
So we’re giving it a go. It’s been an interesting year. My son loves soccer just as much as he ever did, probably more now that he’s learning fancy footwork skills and ball strategies that set his little engineer-focused brain on fire. Who knew soccer would be all about physics and angles? Certainly not me. But he gets frustrated, too, because it’s hard. Some days he loves playing on this team, and loves everything he’s learning, and sometimes he thinks it’s too much and wants to quit. Some days he just wants to keep playing Nerf gun wars with his friends after school instead of gathering up his gear and heading to practice. That never lasts very long, though.
For us, competitive youth soccer is working, we’ll see where it takes us. My youngest is becoming more of a baseball guy this year, though, and soccer is just a time filler for him. Lucky for me, the baseball fields are right next to the soccer park.
Photo Credit: Spree2010.
Jenny Meade blogs at We're Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto.
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