When our son was 3, he started playing soccer. He was in a 2.5 to 4 year old league. You can just imagine the skill level. My purpose in enrolling him was two-fold. First of all, he looked adorable in the uniform. That might have been my primary reason. Secondly, I needed to find activities to wear him out. He had got a lot of energy and if I didn’t do something to wear him out, he would keep me up half the night. At the time, I was recovering from a hip replacement, so I couldn’t run around with him myself.
At the time of this column, he’d played two games. When I say “played”, I mean he sat on my or my husband’s lap during two games. He didn’t seem to be too interested in playing, which was a little annoying, but wasn’t that big of a deal. He was 3. Even if he does better than anyone else in the league, he was only likely to hit the ball in one out of 50 kicks. Skill isn’t the focus in a preschool soccer league. As far as the kids are concerned, the juice boxes and the snack are the focus. The parents are mainly there for their own amusement.
That’s the case for most of the parent, anyway. At one game, I had my first glimpse of the insane sports parents in the earliest available incarnation. The parents spent most of the game screaming at their daughter, Lucy, who wasn’t even on our team, but showed up to substitute. Poor Lucy (who was THREE) didn’t even know the coach or the other players since it wasn’t her regular team. Her father led much of the shouting. He sounded exactly like Ray Barone if Ray Barone was about to have a stroke from tension.
Here are a few samples:
- “Dammit Lucy, I showed up to see you PLAY!!”
- Lucy, you’re not focused!”
- “Lucy, you are running around aimlessly!”
- “Dammit Sheila (or whatever his wife’s name is), she’s not even trying!”
I wanted to ask “Trying to what, exactly?” Steal the ball from the kid who is picking his nose? Score a goal, since the net is wide open because the opposing team’s defense is picking flowers? Wind sprint across the field and slide tackle the kid who has taken his shoes off? What the heck was Lucy’s objective?
I found out a little later that this is Lucy’s second (SECOND!) season of soccer. That explains why Lucy was so far ahead of her teammates. She knew where the field was and seemed to understand that the game began in the center of the field. This gave her a huge advantage over the kids who ran over to their mommies every time the whistle sounded. (My son never got off my lap in the first place and thus was never startled by the whistle).
I don’t know Lucy’s parents at all, but I’m sure they will be easy to track down over the years. They’ll be screaming at the coach at her first grade tee ball games and her father will publicly threaten to disown her when she doesn’t catch a fly ball at her seventh grade softball game. Lucy is in for a loooong stretch of parental encouragement. I just hope she doesn’t end up graduating first in her rehab class.
Photo via Flickr.