I can’t quite describe the exact feeling or sadness you feel as a sports parent when one of your kids decides they no longer want to continue their adolescence sports career. I have four kids so I am ok with everyone not doing everything at this point. Each child has their strengths and I know that and I can see when they are no longer growing or have a passion for something. I also can tell if that is driven off of a situation that I feel like is making them feel that way. I felt as long as they were growing from season to season and they were getting more out of it they should continue. After all I believe that sports are great ways to get physical exercise, work with a team, make lifelong friends, have to take direction from others, learn to deal with disappointments, and of course experience the highs as well.
I took an active role right off the bat. I volunteered to coach when they were little and on recreational teams. I volunteered to do other duties that I was comfortable with even when they played club sports where I was not the expert in any means to coach. I learned how tournaments worked, how to do scheduling, how to put the team’s needs in front, and one of my biggest take aways personally are the friendships I have developed on the sidelines. When you are in any season of any sport your time is consumed by practices, games, more practices, traveling out of town, and catching meals in between games with this group. This is a lot of time you are spending with this group of kids and parents and the closer you become the more fun you have when you are spending 10 hours on a field or hanging out at the hotel on Friday and Saturday night of an out of town tournament (which we did quite a few!). I have sat under umbrellas to avoid heat stroke, avoided hail storms and down pour, and huddled under blankets as it snowed with these people!
So, after you have spent countless hours, countless amount of money, both your child and the parents have forged these great relationships it is more than just a quick decision to give that all up. I never thought any of my kids were doing any of this to get college scholarships or go pro. At this point in my kids’ careers some of those kids who may achieve those goals have moved on or maybe even chosen other things they were good at to pursue. Maybe this is the reason why I was a little more relaxed and had fun with it because my indicators of a successful season was whether my kid grew and how they developed some relationships on and off the field. And selfishly how my relationships were with the parents on the sidelines. Of course winning some tournaments and overall morale of the teams helped!
We have tried almost everything along the way but the sport that I sunk the most time and money into for my kids was soccer. All of them started at 3 years old in the peewee league, then on to YMCA soccer, SAY soccer, and then select soccer. I will use another blog to explain some of the differences. All of my kids actually started club at 7 years old. All played a year earlier than they technically were. The first year for my oldest two were tough and you could definitely tell they weren’t at the level they played yet. I will say that a lot of those kids are some great players they were just after all, 7 years old! We persevered even though sometimes it was tough. You know why it was because of the other kids, the coaches, and the parents. We actually stayed in the same club until just this past year. The older they get the more movement you will see and while I was active with the club I didn’t think that the decisions they were making were the right ones for MY kids so I moved them. That was one of the toughest things I had to do. Tougher for me than my kids. Some of you will understand that and some won’t and that is ok. The good thing is that there are options out there and at the end of the day you have to do what is best for your OWN kid. It’s your kid, money, and time.
Two years ago my oldest decided to hang up his cleats. I had been the “team mom” for years. The core of that team (the 2nd team) had been intact for years. As the 2nd team in a top down club every June we had to worry about those who would move up (good for the kid but usually effected the team), who knew would come, and would we have enough players. My sons’ last year he went 11 v 11 and I was helping fill the team from Disney World on our vacation! We played with only 13 boys that fall and had to use subs for tournaments in case of injuries, sickness, or just for the overall fatigue of the boys. It was a lot more work. This was his 7th grade year and boys start to change and I could see him starting to give less and less effort. I saw his teammates out shining him and he didn’t even care. He became demotivated and at the end of the season he was refusing to go but my kids will finish what they start. It was pretty much a nightmare for him and me. It was extremely sad because I cared for all of the boys as they were my own and cared about my parent friends but it was time. So after a decade he hung up his cleats after 100’s of games and practices, some trophies and medals, out of town tournaments he ended his adolescent career in soccer.
My second son was supposed to finish what he is claiming his LAST season this spring. The disappointment is sickening that he didn’t get to actually finish due to the COVID-19 is an understatement but what can you do. I absolutely love watching my kids play. Carson especially. Carson didn’t just get anything handed to him. He was put on the 3rd team in a top down club for most of his career until the last 2 years. His little teams struggled, always had the new coach (not the issue), and had to fight hard for attention. I remember the first year that little team won their first trophy in the MASC. They were so excited! They even beat a pretty good team for the title! Each summer teams shift and evolve and he did actually make his way to that 2nd team. He was always positive. He did get upset don’t get me wrong and that showed me he still cared. If his team won or lost he would run across that field and hi-five each person on the sidelines as well! I mean EVERY single time. He made me so proud. When teams fold and numbers don’t align you sometimes have to make decisions. This past year Carson played on a small team (sometimes they didn’t even have subs) for a new club and he made the best out of it. Of course there were boys that were better, faster, and maybe not as nice all of the time but he kept it up. I will say that his motivation and passion was dwindling from day 1. You couldn’t tell when he went out there but he voiced that daily. We were going to finish what we started and secretly I was hoping he would change his mind at the end of spring but we will never know now. At this point I think it is safe to say he is going to hang up his cleats on his adolescent career as well.
My third son started young and was growing each year in skill as well. He has the most athleticism of the 3 but he has some attention issues and he isn’t the best sport in the box. It makes me incredibly insane! He could have a lot of opportunities too! He is only 11 now and has been held to high standards at a young age. He has been harder than my other two in terms of keeping a game face on or focusing. I am not sure sometimes if he can help it but I am his mom and I will advocate for him until my dying day. He too switched teams this past year with a spot on the 1st of 3 teams and it would have been awesome to see him play this spring as well. They were a good little team. At this point I am not sure if he will continue with soccer or not. Incredibly sad as well. Not because of all of the same reasons this time but he is really fun to watch when he is on his A-game. While I am still holding out some hope for him I do understand that I cannot alone inflate motivation into a child at this point in time as he is headed to middle school next year.
I do have a 4 year old daughter who is active as can be already. She is in gymnastics and ballet. She did try one year of YMCA Itty Bitty soccer and wasn’t a fan. I will say Hunter wasn’t mature enough for Itty Bitty either but was the year later. I do hope that she will try at least the next level of SAY but she has said she wants to be a cheerleader too. We will see how it goes!
Last thing, after all of these hours and dollars spent on the soccer fields I can happily report that I have at least 2 of them working as referees! They should know the rules by now, right?!? I think this is a great opportunity for them to pick and choose when it fits their lives, make good money for their age, and learn many new life lessons that I think the great game of soccer provide.
Here is my salute to my other soccer families and parents! While my time isn’t purely decided by soccer games for the time being, I could be back next year, I could be back in a few years, or I could be done forever but at the end of the day I am blessed for my experiences and I fully recommend the ride!