Six years ago, when I innocently signed my kid up for town soccer, I figured it was an eight-week commitment and he’d lose interest halfway through. Flash forward a few years, and my son’s saving his pennies for custom cleats and dreaming of becoming a striker for Real Madrid. His entire wardrobe consists of black shorts and polyester shirts with random names plastered across his back. Messie, Ronaldo, who can keep up? Well, I’m learning fast, because long gone are the days of low-stakes soccer. Now we spend our weeknights shivering on the sidelines of freezing cold practices, and our Sundays verbally abusing Siri because of her blatant refusal to find the away team’s field. It’s a full-on year-round commitment. Here’s how I keep the soccer mom spirit alive without forfeiting my A-game.
Sangria for the Win
Sure you can bring coffee, or even cider and donuts, but what everyone really wants is a cocktail, especially for the games that start after 5:00. Unfortunately, when you’re racing out the door because it took you an hour to find one shin guard, you’re going to have to wing it. Grab a bottle of red wine, throw in the mixed fruit left over from your kid’s lunchbox, use up the orange juice still sitting on the breakfast table, pour it all together into a large, but opaque water bottle, and your bootleg is ready to go. Don’t forget the Solo cups for sharing with the other moms, and make sure not to hand off the wrong thermos to your kid as you usher him onto the field. Bonus points: If the coach runs out of orange slices at half-time, fish out the fruit from the bottom of the bottle and pass it around.
Own Your Sideline Style
Do not settle for the cheap sports chair. Your butt will sag and your lower back will hate you. Bring the bling. Your checklist includes: headrest, recliner, detachable misting fan, bottle opener. You want to be rain proof, sun proof, and category 1 hurricane proof—we’re talking vinyl visors and plastic siding. I’ve got my eye on the sports pod pop-up tent, because, wait for it—It comes with ground stakes! That is some serious commitment right there. The only thing this gift from the sports gods is missing is a wifi connection to live stream the game. You’ll still need your pashmina blanket, though. Trust me, come the first frost, every time the ref blows the whistle for a time out, you’ll be plotting his death if you’re not warm enough.
Take Your Position
The best spot is midfield. And because it’s hard to tell which kid is yours when they are all wearing the same exact outfit, you’ll want to get right up on that foul line. The teams switch at half time, so just when you get used to the side of the field your kid is playing, it starts over. Inevitably I find myself yelling at my kid to run the other way during the first few minutes of the second half. The coach loves that by the way. Pro tip: As you’re positioning your chair tent, never sit too close to the parents of the opposing team. They don’t like you. Seriously.
Focus on Strategy
It’s all about confidence. Look, I can’t tell the difference between a corner kick and a goal kick, and I barely know what off-sides means, but you’ve got to learn just enough lingo to be helpful in your own way. When you’re inappropriately screaming instructions to your child (and possibly offering him monetary compensation for a score), you’ll sound like you know exactly what you’re talking about. You might want to hide behind the other parents and slightly disguise your voice, so the coach (and your kid) can’t call you out later on for breaking the league’s rules of, you know, not shouting at your kids. Move around frequently, too, and if you do get the stink eye, just point to the parent next to you and roll your eyes. Think of it as a witness protection program for soccer moms.
Don’t Get Redshirted
My kid has the teams he loves, and he’s always on the hunt for jerseys to add to his collection. Of course the team he is obsessed with these days has red shirts, which means that all my clothes are turning pink—because it is environmentally irresponsible to run an entire wash every other day for two damn shirts. I’m talking to you Portugal! And while we’re on the topic of attire, let’s just sign a petition that makes it illegal to allow famous players to switch teams, making the $60 jersey I just purchased as a birthday gift obsolete. Every time I hear, “I can’t wear that mom! He doesn’t play for Argentina anymore,” I want to send a bill to FIFA. We’re not all making 40 million Euros a year.
In the coming months, my son will be trying out for an even more competitive league that includes overnights. There’s still a part of me that would love my evenings and Sunday afternoons back, but more importantly, I want my son to have the opportunity to follow his dreams. You never know, he could go pro. But until that happens, I’ll be packing a lot of extra fruit in his lunchbox. Cheers!
About the author: Aileen Weintraub is a freelance writer and editor living in New York. She has published more than 50 books for children and young adults. In addition, her work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Kveller, The Manifest Station, Hudson Valley Parent Magazine, and in many other publications. When not cataloging her neuroses and obsessing over what may or may not be watching her from the forest that surrounds her home, she is hard at work on her comedic memoir, Womb Service.