Forget Friday night lights. The biggest games in suburban America take place bright and early on Saturday mornings. Soccer is THE SPORT for school-age kids, and for several years, we dragged our boys—and ourselves—to fields all over town for weekly matches.
Time. Out. This year, neither of my sons wanted to play soccer. And you know what? I’m just fine with it. Here’s why:
Saturday mornings. For the first time since George W. Bush was president, I am sleeping in. Without a game—or multiple games, for different children in different parts of town—to rush off to, we can actually do things on the weekends. Drink coffee while wearing pajamas! Go to the farmers market! Take a day trip! The possibilities are endless.
Weekday afternoons. Not having to practice dribbling, passing and shooting means that we’ve gained two afternoons each week that can be used for other extracurricular activities, such as science classes, music lessons, or finishing homework before 10 o’clock at night. We might even try to eat dinner together as a family.
No cleats or shin guards. Have you ever tried to wiggle a pair of shin guards onto a sweaty 5-year old’s calf? Soccer cleats seem to be made of out synthetic leather that is completely shapeless yet does not stretch to conform to human anatomy. I’ve nearly gotten a nose bleed several times while struggling to stuff a foot into one of those shoes.
No more snack duty. What other sport requires parents to bring juice boxes and granola bars for the entire team? Do you really enjoy cutting up orange slices? Only a few kids will suck on them, then spit out the chewed-up leftovers INTO YOUR HAND. Well, you might enjoy that kind of thing if you are that mom who ups the ante by bringing homemade muffins or goody bags for every child. In that case, maybe you should stick with soccer.
Athletes are usually encouraged to avoid having things come in contact with their heads.
A clean car. Soccer games are BYO chair. And if you are really an over-achiever, you might also pack a shade structure, stadium blankets, or a cooler full of refreshments—all of which take up a lot of room in the car. Can I tell you how many times I’ve come out of Costco with a pallet full of food (see: snack duty) only to find my trunk already stuffed with soccer balls and lawn chairs?
No more headers. Athletes are usually encouraged to avoid having things come in contact with their heads. In football, where the players wear helmets, head injuries are a major controversy. Not so in soccer, where hitting a ball at high speeds with a still-developing noggin is an official and encouraged part of the game.
No more gratuitous trophies. Is it any coincidence that the rise of participation awards parallels the growing popularity of soccer as a childhood sport? Hmm. I’m pretty sure if you investigate thoroughly enough, you’ll find that AYSO is a front for the Trophy and Medal Manufacturers of America.
No more end-of-the-year pizza parties. Would you like a side of kids hopped up on root beer with your pepperoni? And no one gets a slice of cake until the speeches saluting every player from the Best Head-Butter to Most Valuable Daisy Picker. Also, I’ll save my donation for the coach’s gift. Because no man in America wants a soccer ball autographed by a bunch of 8-year-olds.
And with all this free time, maybe I’ll even let my kids try a different sport.