This afternoon I watched my 7,456th soccer game. While I enjoy watching my children play sports, after a while it gets old. Really old. Really, really old. The sport and the children are probably interchangeable. For this example I will refer to soccer, but baseball, softball, volleyball, football, and basketball could easily be swapped in. I will also be referring to the child as “he” even though I also have a “she.” It’s my blog I can do whatever I want.
You and/or your spouse see a sign about soccer for children ages 4 and up. The two of you decide that this is the right time to enroll your child in team sports. They will learn to work with others, strategize, and have fun. Or, at the very least burn off some energy. You balk a little at the $40 cost (including a uniform t-shirt) but decide it is worth the money. You could have the next David Beckham on your hands and not even know it. You also purchase the cutest little soccer shoes and shin guards at Target for a total cost of $20. You decide to buy a soccer bag for all of his gear shoes, shin guards, water bottle. It’s pricey, but he looks so cute lugging that big bag around that you spring for it despite the ridiculous cost.
During this phase the kids play “beehive soccer.” There is no playbook and no strategy. They just blindly follow the ball around the field and try to kick it in a VERY LARGE soccer net. There is no score kept. It’s coed. Everybody is a winner. After each game one parent is required to bring snacks for the team. You purchase those cute little bottles of Gatorade and cut up piles of oranges. For good measure you also get a few boxes of granola bars. Nothing but healthy snacks for your little athlete.
You invite all of your friends and family out to the field on Saturday mornings. You watch. You cheer. You giggle over your son picking dandelions out of the grass. You take piles and piles of photos. Many of them are “just the cutest” pictures of him squatting down with his hands under his shin guards scratching his legs. You ask around about what ‘off sides’ means, no one knows. It’s hot. It’s cold. You complain about both, but it’s worth it.
The first time a game is rained out you cheer the kids up by going to the humane society and adopting a stupid dog. (I highly recommend avoiding this part of phase one.)
You love the coach. At the end of the season you buy her a present after she gives every child a trophy.
At this point your child has played soccer for a few years. You think he is pretty good, maybe the best on the team. He moves up a level and so does your cost. Now it is anywhere from $75 to $120 for the season. That hurts a little, but at least he gets a uniform. They get real soccer shirts now and matching shorts. You notice the soccer bag has a hole in it. You patch it with duct tape because it was at least $40. The teams are no longer coed.
You’ve missed a few games and feel bad about it. Luckily, you have made some friends on the team that can help transport the kids to and from the game. The carpool family winds up being your best friends. The kids love each other and you all hang out outside of soccer and gossip about the other parents. Whenever someone from your side yells ‘OFF SIDES’ you do too, even though you don’t know what it means. You take a few pictures in the beginning of the season.
After the games you are still required to do the snack thing. You think the kids might be getting a little old for it. Instead of sliced oranges they just get granola bars or twinkies or whatever you can grab on the way to the game because you forgot it was your day. When your child requests the full size bottles of Gatorade you ask him if he thinks money grows on trees.
You complain like nobody’s business about the hot/cold. You buy every different type of bug spray to keep away the gnats and mosquitos. You burn incense, nothing works. You like the coach, mostly. At the end of the season you all pitch in to get him a gift. There is an awards ceremony, everyone gets a trophy.
Soccer is now a line item in your family budget. You’re on the payment plan because he is playing year-round, indoor and outdoor. Your household now spends more each month for the payment than you did for the entire season when they were little. The uniforms are an extra $100. ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS. Within six months the shirt already has holes in it. You invest in more duct tape. His soccer shoes now cost $130 and the shin guards are another $35. He also has to have a ball, “a good one, not the cheap ones from Target Mom.”
He is required to keep his soccer bag in the trunk because it smells like moldy teenage boy. He can buy a new one with his own money.
You’ve missed lots of games, but have convinced yourself that your son does better when you are not watching. This makes you feel like a good and bad parent at the same time. Your soccer BFF’s moved away. You have a new carpool buddy, but it’s not the same. Most of the other parents are irritating and take the game entirely too seriously for your taste.
Camera? Am I supposed to bring a camera to this?
The girls’ stay after their game to watch the boys play. They cheer on the boys. They cheer on your boy. It makes you feel jealous and angry and then weird and old.
There are no more snacks. Instead you have to bring something for the potluck barbecue after the game. This irritates you until you realize that it is acceptable to also bring beer to the barbecue.
You couldn’t care less about the coach’s personality. You fork over the cash for the end-of-season gift, but do not volunteer to actually buy it because you got burned on that deal once already.
You have now spent more time watching soccer than you have doing anything else in your adult life. You would just once like to watch a game that was in perfect weather, not steaming hot, not raining, not windy, and not freezing cold.
You still have no idea what ‘off sides’ is, nor do you care.