My daughter LOVES soccer. I mean, it is her passion. I’m often jealous... how nice must it be to know your passion at seven instead of just beginning to uncover it at forty? Being one the year her brother began his soccer career, she waited for three and a half years on the sidelines. That equates to five seasons, fifty games and approximately seventy-five practices that she (and I) had to endure before being given her chance to play. (Not that she didn’t try the occasional toddler foray onto the field in the middle of a goal kick, mind you.) The night her coach called to introduce himself and inform us of the first practice, I hung up the phone and said, “Baby, your first soccer practice is tomorrow.” She looked up from Blue’s Clues, pumped her fist in the air and said, “Finally!”
I have to say, from the second she hit the soccer field she has not disappointed. Her very first game when most of the other girls were trying to decide if they were going to cry because they thought the coach was “yelling” at them or join the herd chasing the ball, I actually lost track of how many goals my daughter scored. At one point her coach turned around and said, “Could you have mentioned she could play?” We, of course, didn’t know she could. I don’t know where the soccer gene came from, but somehow she got it and she knows it. Therefore, we have to walk the tightrope that is stretched between too much and not enough praise. My husband and I are usually content to let her coach and other parents discuss her natural ability. We try to work on teaching her that she does NOT have to play every quarter and it’s more important for her to learn to be a gracious winner than a gloating ball hog. I refuse to be one of those braggart parents that derive their sense of self worth from the accomplishments of their children. I mean really, I’ve never aspired to be a soccer player so how much sense would it make for me to become the equivalent of a stage mom on the sidelines? The answer: About as much sense as it makes for the suburb I live in to actually have an ADULT cheer squad. Oh wait... A COED ADULT cheer squad. Yes, you heard me—grown men and women who cheer, in UNIFORMS, in competition, on the weekends, for FUN. I’m serious... PROFESSIONALS with bumper sticker megaphones containing their names on their SUV’s—bankers, lawyers, doctors... cheering, chanting, flipping, donkey kicks, hurkeys (who named that anyway?)! Yes, hand clapping... ready, ooooookaaay!
In Texas, football is king and therefore, cheerleading is queen. Now, while I take issue on their not being a self-imposed age, not to mention gender, limit on cheerleading, I have no problem with children cheerleading. My daughter doesn’t cheerlead because we’ve decided our family functions best when each child is in no more than one extra-curricular activity at any one time. And since football season directly overlaps with fall soccer season, my daughter has chosen soccer. Now, I’m happy about this choice for lots of reasons: soccer is very inexpensive compared to cheerleading, the gear required is a lot less complicated and there is no requirement for me to fix her hair prior to games. Had she chosen cheerleading, I would have sucked it up... but alas, I’m not disappointed. Plus there is the added bonus that she is really good at soccer and would probably be just an average cheerleader. I don’t know this for sure, but I have my suspicions. (I’ve seen her donkey kick.)
Now, I try to keep my biases to myself as much as I can when dealing with my children. They are not me and are entitled to their own interests and opinions (please God, don’t make me sorry about this by allowing them to grow up to be Republicans.) There are moments, however, when you just know you’ve rubbed off on them... either through nature or nurture. Last Saturday’s game was one of these times. There is a teammate of my daughter’s who also cheerleads. It’s actually really cute when she does cheers for her own soccer team from the sidelines. However, last week my daughter’s team was in the middle of tight game and my daughter and the cheerleader were on the field at the same time. Well, the cheerleader decided to go ahead and cheer while ON the field—in the middle of the game. Apparently this was the equivalent of sacrilege to my daughter, who turns around and yells at the top of her lungs while doing her best zig-zagging finger snap, snap, snap, “HEY!!!!! HEY, HEY, HEY... IF YOU WANT TO BE CHEERED FOR YOU CAN STAY ON THE FIELD!!! IF YOU WANT TO CHEER, GET TO THE SIDE LINES ‘CAUSE THE FIELD IS FOR PLAYERS!!!”
Perhaps we also need to address the subtle art of tact in addition to not being a ball hog.