I grew up in a home where sports was a very big deal. While my dad could never convince me to actually sign up for any rec teams, I put my time in the stands watching my brothers play all kinds of sports. Easter meant a trip to Vegas for a basketball tournament and chocolate Easter eggs in the back of the family Suburban. I knew the all players on my brothers’ basketball teams by jersey number and learned to yell my team advice from the bleachers as well as anyone.
We also followed professional teams, planning our family schedules around the next Jazz game. I’ll never forget my mom’s disgust when she saw a couple of our neighbors taking a walk during an important playoff game. “There they are,” she said. “Just walking around the neighborhood like nothing else is going on.”
Since marriage, however, my life in sports has been rather quiet. My husband played soccer and likes to bike. We watch a game now and then with my family, but have grown used to learning the scores second hand–or lots of times missing them all together. Sometimes I’ll glance at a headline about the playoffs and think, “I used to be really in to all that.”
But now that my 10 year old has become a soccer player, I have found myself gradually re-entering this world. At first I was timid about it, watching the other soccer moms set up their territory on the sidelines and listening to their calls to the girls on the field. I wasn’t sure I really fit in–sitting on a rain blanket from the trunk of the car and bringing extra things to do during the half.
But each season as my daughter has grown in confidence, I too have become a bolder soccer mom. I now set up my orange and black sport chairs well before the game starts. On sunny days, I stake our giant sports umbrella to the ground. I don’t bother bringing anything to the game but my cell phone and snacks. The snacks are to keep my 5 year old happy and the cell phone is in case I have to text my husband play by play results. I have learned to give up trying to multi-task anything at the half. There isn’t time. I need to discuss the game stats with the other moms. I suppose you can say that after a 20 year absence from the sidelines, I am back. And though I have never actually played in a soccer game, I have all kinds of good advice like, “Kick it!” and “Shoot the ball!” I’m sure it is very helpful.
Last week was the Park City soccer tournament. In our world of youth competitive soccer–a big deal. And an even bigger deal when you know each kid on the team. It is more than just a “win” or a “lose”–it is about these girls you love giving their all on the field. There is number 10 who plays with her heart right out there on her jersey. There is number 8 on the B team invited to play up for the tournament. There is number 5 the coach’s daughter subbing in and out. Then there is my daughter who played off and on last season as goalie and now pretty permanently is replaced by number 9–the junior Olympian.
My 10 year old’s take on that, by the way, is this: “She’s a really good goalie. I just feel lucky to be on the team.”
And I just feel lucky to be her mom.
When they lost the finale game for the championship yesterday, emotions ran wild. The angry parents. The indignant referee. The coach trying to calm everyone down. The girls, including mine, wiping away tears. It hurts to give your best and have it not be good enough.
Things didn’t exactly go our way. My husband says in England they call soccer “the beautiful game.” And though the big loss hurt, there was something beautiful about being there to hug my daughter after the game. I knew where the tears were coming from. I had watched every play. I might have been on the sidelines, but my heart was right there with her. It was all at once a horrible and beautiful game.
We play another tournament this week. The chairs and the sport umbrella are already in the car and the jersey is in the dryer.