I am not a Soccer Mom. I am a Football, Basketball, and Lacrosse Mom. Different sports, but same Mom concept. This is not a role I ever imagined I would take on. When I was in college I had a fellow art student friend who had to suffer the humiliation of driving his mother’s white sedan around with a vanity license plate that said something like “SOC R MOM.” Not cool.
Then years later I delivered a little boy into the world. Physically robust from birth, his constant motion gave me the feeling I would eventually be embracing team sports. I watched in awe when he crawled early, walked early, fearlessly climbed the jungle gym, and could throw a football with a decent spiral when he was five. In first grade he played his first season of flag football. I admit that I am not even entirely clear on the rules of football, and have trouble following it on TV… but that Fall I saw my child take that little pigskin and run and swerve and block and then break out the spin-moves like he was born to play this game. Even to my untrained eye, it was pretty clear that he was good at this. My heart pounded the first time I saw him take the hand-off, fly past all his opponents and run it into the end zone. Shivering on the sidelines in the early morning chill, my heart warmed with the thought that my boy had found “his thing.” It was then that I knew I would become a Sports Mom. He is now eight and there is no sign of losing interest. I think we’re in it for the long haul.
Every Mom wants their child to find some activity that they enjoy and that they can excel at. But not all Moms enjoy team sports. I was somewhat surprised to read about the passionate dislike that many parents have for organized sports. (If you are unaware, please refer to Scary Mommy’s post entitled, Organized Sports Suck.) To be fair, I only have one child, so I can’t complain about shuttling a minivan full of kids to multiple sporting events and practices. I get carpool help from coaches and neighbors when practices conflict with my work schedule, and my kid only plays one sport at a time, with one practice and one game a week at this age level. (Yes, eventually this schedule will undoubtedly intensify.) My kid loves to practice and rarely complains about going. Even if he gets a ride to practice with someone else, I go early to pick him up so I can watch. I will never get bored with seeing that joy on his face.
My boy can’t wait for the game each weekend and we all enjoy going together as a family. My husband throws the football with him on Saturdays (one of the greatest joys in life for both my husband and my son), or occasionally they shoot some hoops together at the gym. Sometimes I break out my old lacrosse stick and throw the ball around with him in the front yard. I do need to be sure to write the constantly changing game times on the calendar, remember to wash the jerseys, avoid losing the mouthguard, and bring the snack or drinks on the weekend I signed up for, but I wouldn’t say these added burdens push me over the edge. Sure, I am a bit relieved when a season ends and we get a few weeks off to relax or catch up on other activities before the next sport begins. But there is always a new season to look forward to.
We love the YMCA programs in our area. The coaches have been great, and emphasize sportsmanship and good attitudes along with skills and strategy. The other parents are fun and laid back (some are our friends from the neighborhood) and I haven’t encountered the dreaded hyper-competitiveness that many people find objectionable for younger kids. Organized sports have been an overwhelmingly positive experience for my son. He has learned to be both confident and humble about his abilities. He has learned how to accept both praise and constructive criticism graciously. He has enjoyed the camaraderie of teamwork and the responsibility of individual effort. We never have to tell him to try harder or to focus more. From the time he was a toddler, he just had that instinct. Even when he was in first grade, when attention spans are typically short, I would watch his little face concentrating, listening intently to the coach and processing his instructions. I could almost see the synapses firing in his brain, and became convinced that sports would be an enhancement to, and not a distraction from, his emotional and intellectual development. I’m not saying organized sports are great for all kids, and we certainly witnessed some kids having less fun than others. I sincerely hope that those kids will have the opportunity, with their parents’ support, to try lots of other activities and find the ones that fit.
So maybe I never saw myself as a Sports Mom, but the truth is that I did in fact play sports as a kid. In high school I played field hockey in the Fall, ran Indoor Track in the Winter, and played lacrosse in the Spring. My father played football and lacrosse for Johns Hopkins, and growing up in Baltimore, I continued to follow and enjoy sports with my family. I remember starting with lacrosse clinics and camps in middle school and awkwardly fumbling with the stick, fearful of embarrassing both myself and my Dad. Then one summer at camp, something just clicked. The stick suddenly made sense and moved like an extension of my arms. I was throwing, catching, and scoring goals! I remember this summer as a turning point for me. Maybe I was 12 or 13? That awkward in-betweeness started to subside as I became comfortable in my body and realized I might be good at something other than art, violin, writing, and the more bookish pursuits that I enjoyed. Sports were part of the process for me of feeling my own strength and becoming my own person. I didn’t have to wear black or look artsy to be an artist. I could be an artist and also play lacrosse. There was no need to pigeon-hole myself into one of the high school types from The Breakfast Club. I hope my son will feel the same way when he realizes that he doesn’t fit the jock stereo-type portrayed in movies and can just be himself: a bright and funny kid who loves reading, music, science and building things, and also happens to be very good at sports.
Recently my son had the exciting opportunity to scrimmage at the half time of the UVA vs Duke Men’s Lacrosse Game. Seeing him out on the turf in the big college stadium, I couldn’t help but allow my mind to wander towards the desire to see him play at the college level…and the possibility of athletic scholarships… then I remembered he is only 8 and reined myself in. Later I had a little talk with my son. I told him that I was really proud of him, and that if he continued to work hard and stay focused, athletics could open the doors to some great opportunities in the future. Then I was careful to add, “If at anytime sports are no longer fun for you, and you decide to stop, that is OK.” He looked me square in the eye and said, “OK Mom. But we both know that’s not going to happen.”