Four years ago, when Number 7 was five years old, she played her first (and last) season of soccer.
She didn’t love that she didn’t play actual games, and she also was about nine thousand times more serious about winning than all the other girls playing.
Number 7 takes her sports pretty seriously.
So we checked soccer off the list of sports to try, and we moved on.
Fast forward to about two months ago when I received a text from a friend whose husband coaches the U10 soccer team in town and who was in need of more players for the team.
Does [Number 7] have any interest in playing soccer?
I ran this by Number 7 who said, “Yeah! But I don’t think I’ll be good enough.”
Number 7 is a phenomenal athlete, and she’s a super talented runner.
These two things make things a little easier for her to jump into a sport most of the other girls on the team have been playing for a few years.
She gave it a shot, and she loves it.
And you’d never know that she only played one little season of soccer when she was five years old.
But she’s definitely a little clueless.
This is to be expected, of course, when you’ve never really played and you have no idea what the positions are even called.
Also, I thought I was signing her up for rec soccer, but she’s playing on the travel team.
I guess she’s not the only clueless one.
Anyway, her coach is amazing.
He’s patient and positive and encouraging and he just LOVES coaching soccer.
He loves coaching soccer as much as I love coaching swimming.
Which is a lot.
I also know him and he knows Number 7, and our daughters are very similar in personality, so Number 7 is in great hands.
I played travel soccer pretty seriously when I was a kid, too.
When I got to high school I had to choose between soccer and swimming, and obviously swimming won.
So I know a little bit about soccer.
I also know a little bit about parents.
I’ve experienced quite a few assholes in my years on the pool deck.
Some assholes are accidental assholes.
They are well-intentioned, but their cluelessness prevents the coaches from doing their job.
And their input confuses the kids and frustrates the coaches.
Then there are the intentional assholes who have no regard for anyone and who KNOW they can coach better than the coaches themselves.
I was an accidental little league asshole when Number 3 played travel baseball.
I yelled so much shit from the sidelines, and I was SURE I was helping Number 3, especially when he was on the mound.
(By the way, there is no stress quite like being the mom of a pitcher).
Anyway, one day after a game, when Number 3 was about 10 or 11, I asked him if he could hear me when he was pitching.
I KNEW I was helping him.
His response was, “Yes. And it’s SO ANNOYING.”
That was the last game I ever yelled anything at any of Number 3’s baseball games.
I learned this lesson on the pool deck also.
Number 3 does not appreciate me cheering for him.
So I stopped.
Number 4 on the other hand, loves to hear me cheering for her.
In every race she swims, I give a “GO NUMBER 4!!!!” yell right after she climbs on the blocks.
So it took me a little while, but I got my shit together as a baseball mom and a swim mom.
Apparently this knowledge doesn’t transfer from sport to sport.
Because yesterday I made a total fool of myself when I yelled out to Number 7 to move in a different direction at her soccer game and her coach was like
NO. SHE’S RIGHT WHERE SHE’S SUPPOSED TO BE.
OH MY GOD.
I had become the asshole.
I know better.
I TOTALLY KNOW BETTER.
But my desire for my kid to succeed and do well got the best of me.
I was really only trying to help her, but instead I was doing the opposite, not only for her, but also her coach and her team.
I was mortified.
This is my first experience being a soccer mom.
All the kids (except Number 5) tried soccer for one little tiny baby season when they were in kindergarten.
You know, the kind of soccer where there is no goalie and they play on half a field and all the kids just run around in a swarm except for a couple of the kids who could give a shit about being there and sit down on the field and pick dandelions or do cartwheels and have no idea what the heck is going on.
It’s easy not to be an asshole then because it really is just for fun.
It can be easy to remember that even four years later, even when it’s travel soccer, even when there are actual winners and losers, it’s still just for fun.
I got so caught up in the winning part.
I got so caught up in wanting Number 7 to be caught up to all the other girls.
The reality is Number 7 will catch up if she decides to keep playing soccer.
And more importantly than succeeding, Number 7 needs to fail.
Because that’s how she learns.
And it’s not my job to coach her.
Because I’m not her coach.
I’m her mom.
While I know a decent amount about soccer, I don’t know enough to be yelling shit from the sidelines.
And even if I did, it’s not my place.
My place is just to be her (mostly silent) cheerleader and to watch her have fun doing something she really enjoys.
So as we were driving home from her game on Sunday I made Number 7 a promise.
“I will never tell you where to go or what to do ever again in a soccer game,” I told her. “I shouldn’t have done that. It’s not my job and also I’m not a soccer expert.”
“I heard you cheering for some of the girls on the team though,” she said. I heard you say, “Yeah Jane*!” and “NICE TRY Katie*!”
I told her I might cheer when anyone on the team did something well, but I’d never tell her (or anyone) what to do on the soccer field ever again.
“Okay, Mom!” she said.
And that was the end of that conversation.
So this weekend Number 7’s team lost a really well-played soccer game 2-1, and I lost a little bit of my pride.
But I also learned an important lesson.
I was an accidental asshole this weekend.
Now I know better.
And I’m not gonna make that mistake again.
Because there’s only one thing that’s worse than being an accidental asshole…
Being an intentional one.