Monday, April 21, 2014

My Son Sucks at Soccer

We are not interested in a trophy.  Thank you.

That was the entirety of my email to my son’s soccer coach.  He had pegged the value of a trophy at ten bucks.  My wife, being on the same page, requested I send the coach a gently worded letter saying we were not interested.

“We are not interested in a trophy.  Thank you.”

I think it was perfect.  Exactly what my wife had in mind.

See here is the thing. My son sucks at soccer. 

Not just in a “He is a five year old, cut him some slack” kind of way but epically bad at soccer.  They are five year olds so it’s not like I go to games expecting to watch the World Cup every Saturday.  As most of the children orbit the soccer ball, like rings of Saturn, my son orbits them.  Orbit seems like too strong of a word for him there.  Meanwhile, eventually the ball heads his direction, and he is all that will stand between it and the goal.  So, he turns around and runs toward the net, oblivious to the fact the he is literally running right next to the ball. The ball which moments later will of course, go into the net when he turns around to locate the ball.

My son SUCKS at soccer.  

We have a few rules that we will follow for sports, because we think sports are important.  Did you know the number one indicator of a future female politician is playing competitive sports?

#1- The first thing out of our mouths is always, “WOW you look like you had fun!”  There is a reason that Saturday afternoons, I’m out on the field, instead of sitting on my coach watching college football.  It’s because I want him to have fun.  So questions always focus on what’s important.

#2- No phone. Ever.  Except halftime. Yeah. Halftime is okay.  Listen, if I have to explain this to you, just stop going to your kid’s sporting events.  Better yet, stop letting them go as well.  Your actions are clearly telling them where your priorities lay. You might as well have the words match.

#3- As a family, we will cheer when both teams do well.  I don’t understand any of the unspoken rules at children’s sporting events, such as where I can or cannot sit.  How about this? You watch and cheer for your kid, I’ll watch and cheer for my kid, and the rest of the afternoon we will politely clap when anyone does well.  You’re already grumpy from missing the Irish beat Michigan St, so let’s just check the judgment and garbage at the car.

#4- I said CHEER…I did not say scream or berate your child.  How have I already seen so many parents yelling and verbally harassing their children at a FIVE-YEAR-OLD KID’S soccer game?  Is this how you talk to them all the time?  I don’t know what you think you are doing, but it is not building up your child. It’s tearing them down, and it’s mean.

#5 - Each kid gets one sport, per season, any sport you like, but you must attend every practice and play in every game.  I will not be dragging my kids around to gazillion different places, although I understand the instinct to do so. I’m a huge sports fan, but I think the value of sports gets watered down a bit too much with so many events.  I mean, are you really running them all over town because they want to do so?

When I was younger, I bounced around to several different sports, not really excelling at any of them.  When I turned 15, I started playing hockey, and it was a very good outlet for me. I sucked too, I’m sure, but I did have fun.  More importantly, it helped eliminate some of that teenage angst we all carry around at that age.

Perhaps I should have titled this, ‘My son sucks at soccer, and I don’t care.’

I would rather the boys be smart over athletic any day of the week.  I want him to enjoy playing and engaging in competitive something, but, for the vast majority of us, smart wins out every time.  I would go so far as to say sports, when done for the right reasons, help make your child smarter, among many other positive things. 

I don’t think my kid will ever read these ramblings. No one else does. If he does, I hope he understands how unimportant his athletic abilities are to his life.  I hope that rule #1 worked, and he keeps pushing himself to have more fun.

Not to be rude, but you’ll have to excuse me, I’m trying to have a conversation with my son. 

I want you to know how much I enjoyed watching you play sports. (See that is a variation of the first rule…I knew, you would listen in)

Dude you were five, give yourself some slack.  Besides I always enjoyed talking with you more.

Just the other day, you came around the corner on all knees and said, ‘Dad I’m a 45 year old dog.’

“Nooo, I’m afraid dogs don’t live that long.”

“Oh, well, how long do they live?” He asked

“Well about 12-15 years, but it varies quite a bit, and you know what you should probably just ask your mom. “ I was trying to cook dinner at the time.

“Well how old is our dog Lola?”

Crap.  “13 years old.”

‘Ohh.’  The speed, at which he put those last two points together, really did impress me. 

Probably gets those smarts, by running next to a soccer ball every Saturday.


  1. Excellent post sir. My son is 6 and is playing soccer this spring. Played basketball back in the fall. One sport per season is our rule as well, and he has to commit to being there. I've seen so many parents that socialize and not pay attention to the games, so many parents who verbally beat their kid up that it is ridiculous.

    The first thing I always ask Little Dude is if he had fun. Always reassuring that I don't care how well he plays, as long as he is trying and he is having fun. We also do the same with clapping and cheering for either team whenever a good play is made. They are young. They aren't Messi or Maradona. We aren't hooligans. It also helps teach my son to be a good sport, win or lose.

    Sometimes the best lessons to be learned from sports don't have anything to do with game skills.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Last week he asked if I would stop cheering for the other team. The last part of your comment really struck a cord with me. Wish I had worked it into the post.