The Role I Hope Sports Play In My Children’s Lives
Alina’s First AYSO Soccer Season!
I cannot tell you how excited and happy we are to watch our little girl enjoy her first season of AYSO soccer. This is a moment in our parenting legacy that both D and I have been anxiously awaiting. She’s on our region’s Under 5 team, which means they meet only once a week for an hour. The first 30 minutes is a practice, while the team (of 25 little girls!) breaks into small 3 v. 3 games for the second half. Totally low stress, but with all the bells and whistles of soccer gear and uniforms.
At such a young age, its very much a Parent-n-Me experience. Daddy D enjoyed helping other dads assemble and arrange the small nets and then was the time keeper for their 5 minute quarters. The smile on that man’s face hasn’t been bigger in a long while. It’s truly been a wonderful experience for all of us.
What Soccer Has Meant to My Life
Soccer, for my youth and early adulthood, was my respite. The smell a fresh cut field, eyes gazed on the chalked lines, legs cutting through air as your mind maneuvers through barriers of opponents. Soccer was everything to me, and the family I created within it was too.
I’ve since quit, writing a post years ago about hanging up my soccer cleats, but I wonder if the sport I loved is destined to reemerge in my life through my daughter’s experience. As we practice in our backyard, I teach Alina the mechanics of a throw in, where to step in relation to the ball and how to use her instep. I explain the importance of footwork, practicing side steps and various running speeds, to maintain optimal control of the ball. And then I see it… her face. Alina had no idea the impact soccer had on the life I led before she was born…
The Role I Hope Sports Play – and Don’t Play – in Alina’s Life
I read an article on Psychology Benefits Society recently that was shocking, to say the least. In it, the author reports findings that middle school students are being recruited by colleges and the impact this has on young, affluent girls. A part of this was no big deal. Club sports are highly competitive, and the tournaments attract high level talent from across the country. College recruiters attending these events is common. I was approached by college recruiters, my friends were too. It’s just what happens in competitive sports. But in MIDDLE SCHOOL? At 14 years old?
If Alina becomes the next 16 year old to play on the Olympic Women’s Soccer team, awesome! We will support our girl’s ambitions and talents in whatever capacity she needs. But what I most want her to learn from sports is that of self worth, determination, sacrifice and team work. Anything that opposes those values – including the pressure of performance beyond a developmental age that can handle that stress – is absolutely not what I want.
You can suck at soccer. I don’t care. You can suck at basketball, ballet, theater, volleyball or horsemanship classes. It doesn’t matter to me.
But you can’t suck at life. You can absolutely not suck at feeling proud of yourself, committing to a goal and sacrificing time and energy to accomplish it, and creating bonds with a community of like-minded people. Those are values you need to succeed and grow to be the kind of woman I hope you become. I hope sports is just one other venue in which those lessons resonate onto your identity.
I’m happy the article above was sent to me by a dear friend – as a mother to a daughter who plays competitive college sports, I think she was looking out for me. For you. Because, in truth, it’s easy for parents to get sucked into the competition and forget the values that are fundamental to this time honored practice.
As I venture into Soccer Mom territory, I promise you one thing: I promise to love you, and the ultimate goal of parenting a daughter who is self assured and resilient, more than the joy of sports.
But if you didn’t suck at soccer, I wouldn’t be mad either 🙂
Te quiero tanto, my little soccer player!