I have such a love/hate relationship with the Rec. League, but mostly I love being a Rec. League parent. And I’ve had plenty of time as a rec league mom on the sidelines to observe how that spot tends to bring out the best and worst in most of us parents. In fact, I’ve even learned quite a bit about myself in my little green fold up chair and aviator sunglasses on the sidelines of the soccer field .
We started out soft with Upwards Sports so that our kids could try different sports with minimal time commitment, a soft learning environment, and low cost. We wanted them to have fun and to find out what they enjoyed. It was a fantastic way to introduce them to different sports without a lot of pressure when they were young.
A while back my son finally settled in on soccer as his thing. I wanted it to be his choice, just like my daughter made her choice for softball. But I’m not going to lie. I breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn’t baseball. As much as our family loves going to baseball games, I really don’t love the whole little league environment. People in The South take their little league baseball very seriously.
It is a whole thing. A whole very serious thing.
I remember sitting on the sidelines when our kids were little, soccer shorts half-way covering their shin guards on their tiny little legs, listening to other parents cheer for their littles while I cheered for mine. We were so good, y’all. We encouraged our children while they were out there running around in a big cluster chasing the ball and spending half of the game falling and rolling in the dirt and grass. We yelled things like “You’re awesome!” and “Look at you go!” and “You can do it!” and we gave high fives freely. We were all there celebrating the fact that our children chose to participate rather than be the one sitting in the middle of the field crying. You know it’s true.
When they finished playing we would give them big hugs and tell them we were so proud of them for trying their hardest. We were such admirable parents, so loving and encouraging.
Then my children grew into these big kids that I sometimes still look at in awe and wonder. How did this happen so fast? Is it possible these amazing kids belong to me? Or on a different day it’s possible there might be a slightly less wonderful adjective is used to describe those same children. Because parenting tweens and teens is a tough gig.
When they step on their fields, I’m no longer in awe of the fact that they can listen to a coach, participate in the game, know how to interact with teammates, and can coordinate all of their body parts to kick or hit a ball. They’ve already proved that. Now there’s a part of me that sometimes wants to say “Get your head in the game!” or “What were you thinking?” or “That other kid’s being a jerk.” or “Come on Ref! That was totally a ball!” Blergh.
Over time I’ve decided to embrace a couple of rules for myself on the sidelines. It’s taken me a long time to learn it and spades of self-control. They’re so simple. Yet so hard.
My two “Soccer Mom Rules”:
- I will not coach from the sidelines.
- I won’t cause my child embarrassment on the sidelines.
These sound so easy. But what happens when I sit on the sidelines? Over and over I hear parents doing these exact things. And I have this great temptation to join in. They cause scenes over fouls. The yell at coaches. They try to tell their child where to play or what to do after the coach has already given instructions. They say degrading things to their kids or badmouth other people’s children. And you guys…this is the recreational league. We haven’t even stepped into the competitive leagues around here.
Why do I get tempted to act a fool on the sidelines?
Because it’s no longer enough to celebrate my child’s accomplishments. I want more from them. I already am fully aware of what they can accomplish. Instead there are high expectations because I know they’ve already got the basics down. So the urge to expect them to always be the best, or at the very least their best, kicks in.
Isn’t it enough to celebrate the fact that my kid doesn’t have his face buried in a screen? that he’s being active? that he’s learning to cooperate with others toward a common goal? that he is respecting his coach? that he’s having fun? It should be. That should be enough.
So what can we say to our children? How can we become good sideline citizens? What do our kids want to hear from us? I’ve got an idea that it should look something like this:
- Have fun.
- Practice hard.
- Remember what you’ve learned.
- Respect others on the field.
- Do your best.
- Play hard.
- Goooo <insert team name here>!
- I’m proud of you.
Because I want to be a mom my kid can be proud of, too. And fist bumps with my boy at the end of a game are pretty awesome.