Soccer Mom — dispatches from the sidelines

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Soccer season starts today for my kids. Saturday mornings are now filled with purpose and I’m thrilled about it. We endured  a punishing winter. No. I endured a punishing winter of snow days and crazy children climbing the walls, and fights against screen time and pleas to go outside but knowing it was too cold. 

I feel for the people who live near the schools that host these games, which go on all day. It’s more of an onslaught than the predictable daytime student commutes. This is an all-day seige of upstream and downriver harried mom minivans, rusty and muddy or sparkling SUVs, divorced dad Mustangs and laconic, shimmering grandparent Cadillacs and Mercedeses. Yellow “SLOW DOWN! WE LIVE HERE!” signs pepper the front yards of the vigilant residents. 

A row of drugstore spectator chairs, circa 1999 and 1970s classic backyard porch chairs populate the perimeter of the field; often too close to the sidelines. This ref seems half awake though, so I’m fairly certain he won’t say anything. I hang back in my daisy-patterned butterfly chair (I find anything else uncomfortable; there’s something about the sling-like suspension of the butterfly chair which is preferable to me), more of a people watcher than anything else at this point of the morning.   

  

The coaches are volunteers, mostly men (at least for the boys’ teams, and as for the girls, I’ve no clue). They are passionate, not in the vicarious DO THIS BECAUSE I BLEW IT mentality, but in the “I love this game and by God you will too!” way. 

  

Being that we live 15 minutes from the Pentagon, most of these coaches are active-duty military officers, retirees pulling their pensions while working a consultancy job or perhaps members of the private sector, as in the case of my husband who loves the game, and still plays in an old-man league (as I call it). He stopped coaching last year. He’d put in his time: 10 years coaching all our sons from U5 to U13 and handing them over to other coaches more skilled in adolescent assholicry (this is when the military training –which my husband lacks– comes in especially valuable). 

He also stopped coaching because the parents seemed to expect him to glean a modicum of respect, focus and amibtion from their petulent pubescents. Sometimes the parents are harder to deal with than the kids. Some of these kids were openly and brazenly defiant and awful. At the age of 12! One set of parents had twins on the team. One of the kids was completely engaged in the game while the other was designing computer applications in his mind. So when it came time to select the players for the post-season all-star game, he ended up not choosing the dreamer (for the good of the team). The brothers didn’t care, but one of the parents lost its mind while the other parent privately thanked him. He’s not a marriage counselor (although he could be). So he effectively decided that no amount of well-intentioned $50 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift cards was compensation for the after-game phone calls, plaintive emails, and inevitable sideways glances and murmurs from the “adults” planted along the field. 

These coaches, as is my husband, are dedicated. Pregame they bark tips, skills, drills, tactics and advice. For this game I’m about to watch, it all flies in such abundance and rapidity that I’m not suprised to learn this coach is a loving father who is also an active duty navy captain. At this stage, the coaches are trying to dispel the notion of slide tackles as an acceptable tactic and intead teach the kids the nuances and trickery of the “off sides” call — one that baffles me constantly. I swear I’d play this game as an ailing female human for fun, save for my absolute incomprehension of that call.  One of my most frequent calls / cheers is “DEEEEFENNNNNSE!!” For we all know that the best offense is a good defense… is that the way it goes? 

Soccer is the game of passion in my home. And I must contend that I really enjoy it. My oldest’s team is quite good and super competitive. They are not at the travel level (as many of these kids come from limited means) so they play without fear. His game is later today and I’m psyched to see it. 

One of my son’s teams hasn’t decided its name. So now I shout “Go Blue!” I am one of those parents. Not the bitching and correcting kind, for I praise even when the other team plays well, but I am vocal, excited, engaged. I bring my tablet and a thermos of coffee. Today, I sit facing the pitch, with the sun to my right, just clearing the treetops, in a turtleneck and yoga pants and a pair of (then-pristine) suede and shearling Cole Haan boots I scored off eBay for $25. You can’t pay me to wear the UGGs everyone else does. Regardless of their ubiquity, I find them to be God-awful hideous. All this garb despite the sunshine. It’s still 57˚here and breezy. Soon enough I will be slathered in sunscreen, hiding beneath a reflective SPF-100 “parasol” and sipping iced passion tea… I’m in no rush for that.  

I bring my tablet because I woke up empowered yet dizzy from a crazy dream and because I’ve been reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and it’s absolutely inspring. I have determined (TODAY at least!) to write at any cost, about anything, as often as possible for my own enjoyment and not sweat the future or its appeal or my talent or promise because I need to get back to basics: that writing is MY gig and who cares if I don’t outsell the Bible. This is quite a monumental shift in my consciousness and for me, a rather bold grasping of the brass ring. So for today, I’m writing. 

But I must go now for the whistle has blown.  

Go Soccer Teeeeeam! DEEEEFENNNNSE! 

Thank you.  

Update: we lost. But that won’t stop the post game Slurpee tradition. 

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