Sunday, September 8, 2013

World's Worst Soccer Mom

I will freely admit it--I am the world's worst soccer mom. All three boys play soccer with AYSO. My husband volunteers for our local AYSO region the way I volunteer for the school, obsessively and irrationally. They love going to see the LA Galaxy play. And yet every year the approach of the coming soccer season fills me with fear and loathing.

Why, you might ask, if I dread soccer so much, do my kids play? Soccer does have many positive points. I do want my kids to play some sport, so they don't succumb to their natural tendency to be electronics-obsessed morlocks. In terms of providing an aerobic workout, soccer is a good sport, because even kids who don't have the ball tend to do a lot of running throughout the game. AYSO has a good ethos as far as emphasizing inclusion and good sportsmanship (versus winning-uber-alles), especially good because none of the boys can bend it like Beckham. The kids enjoy soccer. Practicing soccer in the back yard has a much lower likelihood of ending up with broken windows (ours or our neighbors') than, say, practicing baseball. And there are no swingable implements with which to bash one's brothers. And yet...

The fact is, I just can't bring myself to love soccer. So here, in no particular order, are all the things I hate about the soccer season, and why I think I'm entitled to be considered World's Worst Soccer Mom.

Three boys equals six cleats and six shin guards, three jerseys, three sets of uniform shorts, and six game socks. Odds of locating all of these items exactly when you need them in the course of a week: zero. Plus, by the end of the season, housing these items indoors makes the house smell like a gym.

Dry conditions equal dust. Wet conditions equal clods of dirt. The park is slowly migrating into my house, one cleatful at a time.

Scheduling Games
Soccer games in AYSO are always on Saturday. With three boys playing, this in essence means that from September through November, we live in the park on Saturdays. These Saturdays can feature any of the following scenarios: two boys playing at the same time, so that my husband and I have to split up; eight a.m. games, which means no sleeping in for anyone; or three games spread out in such a fashion that we have plenty of gaps long enough to be tedious but not long enough to allow a dash home to actually get something other than soccer accomplished. The one scenario unlikely to occur: three games spaced out so we can go to all three back to back with no wasted time.

Bonus: This season we have eight weeks (out of twelve total) where at least one of the boys have an eight a.m. game.

Scheduling Practices
Sons #1 and 2 have two practices a week. Son #3 (in a younger age group) has only one. Guess how many weeknights we had soccer practice last year? The answer is, I might as well have pitched a tent in the park for the whole season.

Soccer season kicked off yesterday with highs over 100 degrees. My job was to watch Son #1's game (since it conflicted with Son #2's game--see Scheduling Games, above), and I sat in my folding camp chair absolutely stunned into immobility by the baking heat, wondering how on earth the boys could be running around in the sun. From past experience, the first part of the season will feature ridiculously high temperatures. As soon as we all figure out some reasonable solutions to deal with it (pop-ups or umbrellas for shade, frozen water bottles, chilled towels, frozen grapes, etc.), then the weather will switch on us, and it will get cold and windy. It will not, however, get reliably rainy, partially because this is Los Angeles, but most importantly because rain might result in cancelled games if the field conditions get bad enough, and my luck doesn't run that way. (Though late in the season I have been known to consider researching how one does a rain dance...)

Our park features two terrible, inadequately sized parking lots. The long, skinny nearer lot, the one I have to park in most frequently when dropping off the boys for practice, has entrances at one end and in the middle. There is nothing quite like having to make a three-point turn in the end without an exit onto the adjacent street while an SUV is obliviously trying to crawl up your tailpipe. I can neither confirm nor deny reports that F-bombs have been dropped under those conditions.

Picture Day
All of the above plus an extra hour and a half in the park so you can wait in line for pictures. Bonus: your team doesn't get photographed until all of the players are there, so you are at the mercy of the most flaky member of your team.

Other Parents
Not all soccer parents are bad. In fact, many of them are nice. But others come in a plethora of irritating varieties, such as:
Yelling Parents: Let the coach direct the kids. Seriously. And no, the ref isn't blind. He or she is a volunteer. Sit down and shut the f*ck up, dude. This is a kids' game.
Clueless Parents: If you ever read any of the emails from the region, or the coach, or your team parent, you would know where and when the game is. Or where and when the practice is. Or when it is your turn to bring the snack.
Dietary Purist Parents: I respect your right to make sure no Dorito ever crosses your special snowflake's lips. When you impose your dietary choices on the entire team by insisting that no team snack be less than 100% healthy and organic, though, expect me to be just as cranky as our team members. A little variety won't hurt anyone (nor will the occasional Dorito).
Complaining Parents: Don't like the coaches? Don't like the refs? Think the snack bar line is too long or the information tent is understaffed? Did you volunteer for any of that? No? Sympathy is in short supply.

A houseful of mopey boys lamenting their soccer losses is a barrel of laughs. Really.

Too much winning means an extra two weeks in the season.

So I'll own it--I'm the World's Worst Soccer Mom. I'll be getting a lot of knitting done on the sidelines and demonstrating my complete ignorance of the game my kids love. (For example, I think I understand the offside rule after a lot of patient explanations from my soccer-obsessed husband, but I'll be damned if I can ever spot it happening in the course of a game.) I don't expect a trophy for showing up--that's what the kids get. I appreciate all the hard work that all of the volunteers at all levels do to enable a park full of uniformed kids to play every Saturday. But I'm counting down until the first day I don't have to worry about the whereabouts of cleats or negotiating the parking lot without a road rage incident, and the first Saturday we can all sleep in.