Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Soccer Mom Phenom

I’m new to this. The truth is I’ve managed to skillfully dodge the soccer mom bullet for a good few years. My kids did give soccer a shot back when they were 6 and 9, and bursting with Beckham-like potential. But after one season, the boys decided to trade in the Pele-path for more practical pursuits and set out to become Bruce Lee. I thought it was a wise decision. At least kung-fu might keep you from getting a swift butt-kickin’ on the playground. Now we are living on the left-coast and apparently soccer is mandatory. The logic goes like this. It gets the kids exercising. It gets them outside in the sunshine. It teaches them a versatile sport that requires nothing but a ball. It teaches them teamwork. Ok. I buy off on all that. Let’s assume it’s a good thing for the kids. I still hate soccer.

As I baked in the glaring sun yesterday on a field that hosted five simultaneous soccer games, I was quite the newbie. I was proud that I remembered to sunscreen my son and myself. I even had a bottle of water with me. Still, I was woefully unprepared. I didn’t have my folding chair, my visor, or my cooler overflowing with organic snacks. And worse than all that, I didn’t have a genuine interest in the game.

While other parents were screaming from the sidelines, my heart was aching for my 8 year old son, who clearly does not know how to play soccer (because of his neglectful parents no doubt.) He made it his job to stay as far from the ball as humanly possible. And as I watched him, I could feel his anxiety as if it were my own --remembering that horrible feeling of incompetence, not fitting in, being clueless and sticking out for it. He came off the field at half-time fighting back tears. “I don’t want to do this Mom,” he said. “The other kids are yelling at me and the coach is not nice. It’s just not fun.” I know, I said thinking, “I don’t want to do it either.” Of course, I didn’t say that. Instead, I handed him the bottled water and called in reinforcements –Dad.

Fortunately, Dad is a full-fledged graduate of sons who suffer soccer academy. In fact, he claims he could have qualified for a soccer scholarship had he not gotten completely burnt out on the sport. “Most soccer coaches suck,” he said. “But it’s just a game and he’ll get the hang of it. I’ll spend some time teaching him about the positions.” That brought me some relief as did the realization that we only have nine weeks left of soccer.

My distaste for soccer goes beyond my Jack Kerouac desire to be a creative rebel. It even goes beyond my hate for “shlepping” back and forth and back and forth. It’s rooted in a genuine global, socio-economic concern for our world . There actually are many reasons soccer sucks.

Kiddie soccer is big business and a financial burden. Leagues charge anywhere from $250 to $1000+ for an 11-week season. That doesn’t include equipment, uniforms, team sign, photos, snacks, etc. The better your kid is at soccer, the more you pay. If your son makes a competitive travel team, expect to shell out big bucks for hotel and travel expenses. To give you a sense of the depth of the investment, I have a friend who told me he was only able to afford to finally leave his wife, because his son took the season off from soccer!

Soccer speaks its own language. The first soccer glossary I found had over 300 entries from assist and banana kick to wingers and zone. I rather use my brain cells to master Spanish (at least then I might have a shot at getting the landscaper to haul out the dead branch in the backyard.)

Soccer is making us more dependent on Middle East oil. The sport requires relentless practice. For me, there are four practices a week plus two games. We have a soccer activity 5-6 days a week. Every practice and game requires a drive to a faraway field (younger siblings in tow.) Simply put, soccer guzzles gas.

Soccer is un-American.It just never caught on as a professional sport in the states. Maybe the rejection is rooted in Britain, which exported the game to its colonies some 150 years ago but any way you cut it, it’s never really caught on here.

We’re impeding soccer’s growth. The more soccer remains the sport of middle/upper-class suburbanites, the less likely it will become a part of popular culture. In order for a sport to gain popularity, it needs to appeal to all classes. Rich men’s folly, like lacrosse, will never make it big here. Think stickball and urban basketball courts. Perhaps I am hurting the sport by letting my kids play.

So, with Socratic sass, I think I’ve systematically proven there is no reason for me to be a Soccer Slave, I mean “Soccer Mom.” Are you with me or agin’ me?!

p.s. Bruce Lee would kick David Beckham’s pretty boy butt.

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