Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Letter to the Newbie Soccer Parents



Cooper in his inaugural season of soccer.  

Dear New Soccer Parents:

It was a pleasure sitting by you on the soccer bleachers.  Although I was engrossed in a book, I noticed you and your husband right away.  Meaning no disrespect, you had all the markings of newbie soccer parents: you both attended practicing, watching the drills like hawks, and shouting out instructions with vigor.  (While the "been there, done that" moms barely looked up from their People magazines!)

You noticed me too.  Perhaps I had the look of one who had been around the soccer fields a time or two.  Was it the permanent bleacher indentations on my backside?  Or maybe the weathered look of my skin from exposure to the  range of soccer field elements: hurricane force winds, bitter chills, and sweltering temps?  Whatever the case, you pulled me into a conversation, peppering me with questions and concerns.

You pointed to your four-year-old son on the soccer field.  He is the oldest, you said.  He's never played soccer before, you announced.  He has trouble listening, hitting, pushing, and following directions, you lamented in a hushed tone.  

I watched your son prance around the soccer field.  Just to prove you right, he did everything you described.  He was squirrelly and high-spirited, treating the soccer field as his own personal playground.  You shook your heads and cringed.  You pulled him aside from time to time to offer instructions, hard looks, and stern warnings.

But because you were hyper-focused on your own child, you failed to really watch your son's teammates.  His four-year-old companions galavanted around the field with an equal amount of zip.  While one was pushing, another was twirling, and a third stood motionless staring at the sky.  To put it mildly, it was a couple bulls shy of a rodeo.

You asked my advice.

I laughed.

The advice I can offer is to learn from my mistakes.  I've made a few.  

I tossed out a few words on the spot, but later I formulated a better response with hopefully sage advice.  Here goes, I would:

1.  Talk to the coach

Be direct with the coach.  Ask how he or she wants you to be involved.  Does the coach want you to intervene when your child is not focusing or misbehaving?  If so, when?  Know: you are the parent.  Sometimes you absolutely need to yank a kid from the game. I remember one of my sons pulled his pants down mid-soccer field (don't ask).  Before he could blink, I snatched him off the field.

2.  Put it in perspective

Four-year-old boys are going to act like four-year-old boys.  From my experience, it takes a season or two, coupled with a tad bit more maturity, for a child to participate fully and properly in a practice.  Support a child in that process and celebrate the little ways he evolves.

3.  Remember why he's there

More than likely, your child is not the next David Beckham. Sure, he may be on a team to learn soccer, but the lessons he acquires on the field transcend sports skills.  He's learning to follow directions, support teammates, and be a good sport.  Encourage those behaviors first and foremost.

4.  Bottom Line: Let Him have fun

At four years old, soccer is pure fun.  They adore wearing a uniform, coming up with a silly team name, playing with friends, and devouring snacks after games.  Let your child have fun and enjoy the time too. 

Remember, someday you'll reflect on your son's first soccer season and laugh.  Keep that in mind when you watch him twirl.

Sincerely,

Been there soccer mom













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