There are millions of children involved in youth soccer programs in the United States today. Therefore, there are millions of “soccer moms.” I have been a soccer mom for almost a decade, and have learned much during that time. If you have a child who plays organized soccer, whether in a community, church or competitive setting, here are ten tips to help keep you, the soccer mom (and your family), sane.
- Keep chairs, soccer ball, extra shoes, etc. in the car. I am always in a hurry to practice or games. It seems like the time always sneaks up on me. When you are in that mindset, i.e., “everyone get in the car now!” you tend to forget things. One time it may be a water bottle, the next time a chair. I myself have watched several games standing or sitting on the ground. I also know several parents who have had to buy new soccer shoes (and I’m sure paid way too much) at a store near the field because their hurried player forgot their right shoe. I have also seen a parent slip cardboard into their child’s socks because they forgot the shin guards. I keep folding chairs and a ball in the car at all times. I keep shoes and shin guards in a box right near the door in our garage, so they can be grabbed on the fly. Just in case they are not grabbed on the fly, however, definitely keep an old pair in the trunk.
- Use the time spent at soccer mom functions to your advantage. My kids would be disappointed if I was not watching their games, but they don’t really feel the same way about practice. So, while you are sitting in the car at the field, bring your bills to pay. You can also clip coupons, find a new recipe in a recipe book, or make a task list for the next day. You can return phone calls. You can also just have some “me” time. Bring a magazine or a book. The soccer club where my kids play is located next to a large park, so some of the moms run or walk during practice. This is great exercise by yourself or fun if you can get a group of moms together to do it.
- Spend time at soccer practice with your other kids. Another way to make practice time meaningful is to spend time with your player’s sibling(s). When one of my sons is at practice and I have the other one with me, I get out of the soccer mom-mobile and play just with him. It is a great way to get some one-on-one time in. It was action figures when he was younger, now we find an open spot and pass the ball or an open goal and take shots on one another (although the older they get the less inclined I am to play the role of goalie-they shoot hard!)
- Offer to manage the team or help out in some way. Another great way to feel useful at practice is to offer to help. Every team usually has a manager or a “team mom.” This person makes sure all parents have the practice and game schedules, collects money and fees, and orders and hands out uniforms. In our club there are other smaller tasks as well, such as collecting fundraising materials, making dinner plans for the team during a tournament, or bringing drinks or snacks for games. Ask the manager if he/she needs any help. Offering to help will make you feel good and your player will like that you are involved. My kids do. I am the team manager for one of our teams and one advantage is that it is nice to find out information before everyone else!. I also feel like I know all of the kids and parents better. Sometimes it is a “thankless” job and can be a lot of work, but when I do get a few e-mails from parents at the end of the season telling me how great it was, it is worth it.
- Bring your own water and snacks to soccer functions. The math is really very simple. A 24-pack of water on sale at my local grocery store is $3.99. One bottle of water at the concession stand where my kids play most of their games is $1.50. What a difference. I like to buy the cheap bottled water from the grocery store and keep it in a dorm-sized refrigerator in the garage. Then the kids can grab one on the go. On really hot days, I have big insulated jugs that I fill with water and ice and they take those instead. We also travel about 3 times a year for out-of-town soccer tournaments, where the same rule applies. Bring a cooler full of water and Gatorade so you don’t have to buy it at the venue. Part of the fun for the sibling(s) who is not playing sometimes is going to concession stand, however. In this case, tell them they will need to bring some of their own money if they would like Shockers (my younger son’s favorite), a pretzel (with cheese of course) or nachos. You could have them pay every other time or pay for half each time. This way they do not think they are entitled to something just because they are there.
- Give away old soccer equipment. This is something that you will really make you feel good to be a soccer mom. Locate an organization in your area where you can donate old soccer equipment. You can donate balls, shin guards, shoes, socks, etc. Where I live is there is an organization called America SCORES that takes donations. They operate soccer programs in inner city schools. The equipment is given to the participants who might not otherwise be able to buy these things to play. Our whole soccer club actually became involved in this last year, and many boxes of old soccer equipment from our players were collected and donated.
- Don’t try to talk about the game in the car on the way home. Kids know what they can improve on in any given game. They know when they didn’t try very hard. They know when they should have passed the ball instead of shooting. I would actually suggest not saying anything at all, and leaving all of the instruction up to the coach. If you do want to talk about the game, though, let some time pass. The conversation will go a lot more smoothly and your child will be more responsive. I played competitive soccer, and my dad used to want to talk right after the game. It was torture. I know what I could have done better and did not want to have it told to me right after the game. I did not want to have to replay the bad pass I accidentally made to the other team in my mind fifteen minutes after it happened.
- Don’t live vicariously through your kids. I look around sometimes at practices and games and I see parents so upset and excited about every little thing that happens. It is almost like little Johnny scoring or not scoring a goal is a reflection on them. See soccer (or any other team sport for that matter) for what it is: a great sport that your child has fun playing, while developing teamwork skills and a good work ethic. Don’t be upset if your child doesn’t make the “top” team at tryouts or his team doesn’t place in the local tournament. You are raising a person, not a soccer player.
- Don’t push your child. If they are not having fun, and if it is a struggle to get them to practices or games, soccer may not be for them. Therefore, you may not turn out to be a “soccer” mom at all, but rather a “hockey” mom or a “band” mom. Often times the parents who push also yell. Yelling usually happens on the sidelines at games. Yelling instructions at your player or comments at the referee is not good, and you do not want to find yourself doing it. You will embarrass your child and yourself. Also, if you are serious about your child developing and becoming a better player, you need to keep quiet, as anything you yell may be contrary to what the coach is telling him to do from the bench. The coach hopefully wants your child to become a creative player, so you ordering him around like a robot on the field would not be good. Yelling positive comments is okay, however. “Keep it up,” “good hustle,” or “nice shot” are always welcome from the parents on our teams.
- Make soccer is a fun, family activity. Make it a family activity by holding a family soccer game in the backyard. When we have done this, it works out well with mom and the older son versus dad and the younger son. The teams are pretty even. Unfortunately, I can’t really play like I used to (and neither can dad), but it is fun. Our soccer players think their old mom and dad are pretty cool when we play. Another way to make soccer a family activity is to plan an activity around it. If one of my sons has a game, I will plan for the family to go out for dinner at a local restaurant afterwards. It is also great fun to do this with a few families. The parents can sit together and put the kids at a table nearby. Make sure it is a kid-friendly restaurant, however. They have to be okay with a whole table of hungry, sweaty and loud boys.
Life as a “soccer mom” is great, but our young soccer players will grow up so fast.. Make this part of their lives, as well as yours, as stress-free and fun as possible. Your little guy or girl may never be a David Beckham or a Mia Hamm, but I’ll bet even those soccer stars credit most of their success to their “soccer moms.” Do you know that some soccer moms I personally know bet sometimes on sports, and when they do they use a Pointsbet Promotion?