Soccer mom recalls fleeting joys of the job

November 02, 1997|By Susan Reimer

MY DAYS AS a soccer mom are dwindling to a precious few.

Actually, that's not entirely true.

While this season will be my son's last at the recreation-league level, he might make the high-school team and I would still be a soccer mom.

Even if he does not, his younger sister still has a couple of good years left in the sport, and I will be her soccer mom.

So actually, my days as a soccer mom are not dwindling to a precious few. It just feels that way.

I have been a rec-league soccer mom for almost a decade, and since your first child is always your first child no matter how many come after, when Joe leaves rec-league soccer, some part of me will go with him.

I joined soccer when Joe joined soccer, and I am not sure which of us knew less about the game. Soccer and jai alai might be the only two sports I did not cover in my years as a sportswriter, and I approached youth soccer as something kids did until they were ready for youth football.

I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, for heaven's sake. They don't even sell soccer balls in the "Cradle of Quarterbacks," the region that produced Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly.

I'm not sure that what Joe and his little friends did that first year could be called soccer. Mostly, they tripped over the hems of team T-shirts that looked like team nightshirts. Their shin guards were too big, and they ran as if their legs were cast in plaster to the hip.

In rec-league soccer, soccer moms start out watching practice because practice makes more sense than the game. During games, the children run in a big clump around the ball, and you can't see yours without X-ray vision. Unless yours is back on defense. Then everybody can see him picking clover.

In the beginning of rec-league soccer, the only thing the head coach ever says is "Let's tie our shoes," and the only thing the assistant coach ever does is take players to the port-a-potty.

Soon, the oversized T-shirts in Crayola colors give way to silky soccer shorts and jerseys in electric stripes and jazzy hues. The shin guards are hidden under thick, black soccer socks, and everybody has to have soccer cleats. (Smart soccer moms quickly organize hand-me-down chains for these fancy shoes, outgrown after every season.)

Just about the time Joe and his buddies were learning to do more on the soccer field than keep their shoes tied and not pick clover on defense, they became silly and mouthy and brash, and their coaches could not tell them anything, even if they could get them to pay attention for five seconds.

The soccer moms were still sitting on the hill and watching practice. Watching their sons misbehave and collecting money for a generous coach's gift. We thought those sainted men would walk off the field and never return, their frustration with this band of puppies was so great.

Suddenly, it was this year. The last year in rec-league soccer.

When the boys who have been Joe's teammates for six years arrived for the first practice in August, the soccer moms could not believe their eyes. David had actually grown. James was huge. Justin had shaved his head. And R. J.'s face had lost its sweet roundness, and his jaw line looked as though it could slice paper.

Joe had grown, too. And his voice was so deep the other soccer moms burst into shocked laughter when they heard him speak.

This year, it was decidedly uncool for soccer moms to watch practice, so power walks around the park became our excuse for staying. Then we would sit on the hill and watch until it was time for our car-pool shift.

Practice seemed so different this year. Hard and rough and happy. The boys are bigger, faster, more skilled, more focused. The soccer moms cringed as the boys blasted each other off their feet. The cold night air echoed with deep voices and laughter. I wondered if they knew their days as teammates were numbered and loved practice more for that reason. But I tossed that explanation aside. They were just happy to be playing soccer.

My team is breaking up, too.

The boys may be playing soccer next season on teams somewhere. But I will not be on the sidelines with these women again. Funny, I hardly know their names -- they are R. J.'s mom, Connor's mom, Matt's mom, Justin's mom -- but I have seen more of them and their sons than I have seen of my sisters and their children. We have talked through the heat of August and the rain of November, through coffee-flavored Saturday mornings and foggy nights. I know all their stories and they know mine.

From these women, I have learned how a soccer mom is supposed to behave. That you do not run out onto the field when your child is hurt. The coach does that. That you do not give kisses after goals. That the older your son is, the farther up the hill you must stand while watching, the quieter you must be.

For 10 years, I have charted car pools, sliced oranges, lugged water jugs and jackets, hunted down lost socks and missing cleats, argued about which one of us is cold and what we need to wear to keep warm. On the sidelines of anonymous soccer fields, I have died a silent death with each mistake. I have felt ferocious pride explode inside me after each goal.

I am a soccer mom. A hundred Saturday mornings are gone. I wouldn't take a single one back.

Pub Date: 11/02/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.