Welcome back to Thursday, as Jodi at The Noise of Boys and I take turns with our True Tales from the Pink & Blue Trenches series. We’ll pick a topic each week about trying to figure out just what is the difference in raising boys (hers) and raising girls (mine) and share our thoughts with you.
This week, it’s my turn here at Home on Deranged to talk about the reality of putting toddlers into youth sports. Sure, preschoolers love to play games, but organized sports? Not so much. And then you get drafted to be the team’s soccer coaching mom, and, oh, well, you can see for yourself. (To see Jodi discuss the nerve wracking intensity that her son’s soccer debut induced, see last week’s post here.)
When you volunteer yourself for this parenting gig, you know you’re going to have to give up a lot of your free time. You take them to classes, museums, fairs, zoos, all so they can see what the world has to offer. At some point, your kids get friends, and then, your kid wants to join things, do things, be social. That’s where the fun begins.
When Annie turned 3 in January, Thomas and I started discussing putting her into youth sports, namely, soccer. You can see how that went in a recent column I did for Eli over at Coach Daddy, but suffice to say, we thought she would love it.
When the YMCA called to ask if I would consider coaching her team since they were extremely short handed (9 teams, only 3 coaches), my husband said, “Are we going to be THOSE people? The ones who always say yes and try to fix things?” Um…where have you been? We already ARE those people.
The reign of this soccer coaching mom had begun. No assistant coach, except what Thomas could do while still keeping an eye on Leelou. No team mom, since I could only get two of them on the phone. But I got to make all the decisions, right? Uh huh.
We have now played five games, with two more to go. We started out with 8 players; we are now down to five. Annie started out wanting to learn to play; now she wants to fight me. Every step of the way.
So I pondered this odd predicament in life, and since preschool sports is the topic of the week, this soccer coaching mom came up with five reasons it is the awesomest thing ever.
1. You have serious conversations about Frozen while dribbling a ball downfield.
Seriously. There is not one single practice we’ve held that the Disney movie to end all Disney movies hasn’t been discussed. We’ve sung parts of “Let It Go,” we’ve debated if we like Anna or Elsa better, and we’ve lost count of how many times we’ve watched it.
2. Your pregame warmup consists of discussing recent boo-boos, brothers and break time.
Without fail, there is one team member who shows up with a boo-boo of some kind. And I get an indepth report on it. Now, in fact, before games, we sit in a circle, and they will point them out to me and tell me what happened. I also know when half-brothers will be attending games. And I answer, “When do we get a break?” before we’ve even had kickoff.
3. Rather than talking about strategy, you spend a lot of time stifling laughter, breaking up fights between your own team members, and taking more water breaks than NFL players.
Okay, some of these kids are hilarious. Some on purpose, some by accident, but if you’ve ever seen a pack of toddlers running in 14 different directions, well, it’s funnier than those barrel of monkeys everyone talks about. Then again, toddlers are also possessive, and that means that if you take the ball away from them, they will fight back. Even if you are on their team. Oh, and did I mention we talk about breaks? A lot?
4. You learn how to be a good sport in a demoralizing loss AND not be a braggart in a resounding win.
I am a competitive person. I might seem laid back, but I hate to lose. I can still remember all the spelling bees I lost, and I’m still pissed. However, I also recognize when winning is not the most important thing. One week, we played a team that had one amazing player. He scored on us more times than I remember. My team members were crying. Kids aren’t dumb. They know when they’re getting run over. That’s when I put on my big girl panties and reminded them that winning isn’t everything. And I may have pointed out that the other 7 players on that same team weren’t having fun, either. Then last week, we were the dominant team, and one of our players called them, “losers!” Oh, I was quick to swoop in and squash that. And we all shook hands and swapped high fives later.
5. You learn that it’s not other people’s kids that you don’t like; it’s other kids’ parents.
How many times have you heard and/or said, “I like my kids, just not other people’s kids”? Or some variation. I’ve been guilty of it. But the more I work with these kids, and then watch all the other kids out there, running their hearts out, I’ve come to realize, it’s not the kids; it’s the parents. Oh yes, I’m aware that I’m the “other kid’s parent” to someone; I freely acknowledge. But man, it’s amazing how many people barely tune in to their kids. No helicopter parents to worry about here.
It’s hard to say if Annie will play soccer again in the fall. We’ve already decided to hold her out of tee-ball for this summer, because I don’t think she’s quite ready. For example: 1) at the last game, she carried her blanket around on the field for about half of a quarter; and 2) at our last practice, she spent about 2/3 of it playing in the muddy puddle, fresh from the previous night’s rain.
Maybe dance classes this summer will be more her style. Thankfully, no one can ask me to volunteer to teach that!
Have you entered the wide, wonderful world of youth sports yet? Have any fond memories? Or funny ones, anyway? Thinking about taking the plunge and joining up yourself? Share it with me in comments, because I do love a good sports story!