Sunday, October 20, 2013

Team Benchwarmer

I never played soccer when I was a kid.

I know, I know. What kid didn't play soccer? Well, me. The kid who was tall and gangly and afraid of the ball. I was that kid. I still am. When you lack hand-eye coordination and don't like things being thrown or kicked at you, you're pretty limited in the sports you can play. And if you don't care about winning or losing or being part of a team, maybe you're doing everyone a favor by staying on the sidelines.

7th grade me showed a serious lapse in good judgement by signing up for basketball, which was really just a precursor for all of the judgement lapses that would soon hallmark my teenage years. Anyway. It didn't take long for me, or the coach for that matter, to realize that I had no business being out there on that basketball court. I'm not sure why my teammates didn't hire out a hitman to bust up my kneecaps or at least vote me off the team, which really would have been the humane thing to do. Instead I played. Well, I "played" if by "playing" you mean that I shuffled up and down the court and ducked/cringed whenever the ball came near me.

Alas, no valuable life lesson was learned and in the spring I volunteered to be on the softball team. That was much less humiliating since I could just strike out quickly and return to the bench. I think- my memory of middle school grows mercifully hazier as the years pass- that we may have even won some sort of championship, no thanks to me, of course.

And then I married Brent. A real soccer guy. He knows and loves the game and I'll never forget the first time I saw him play indoor soccer because he is an actual athlete, who becomes a completely different person when he steps onto the field. Soccer Brent is super aggressive and loud and smells much worse than Regular Brent.

Now I recognize that same intensity and drive in Jack. He flies up and down that field. His eye never leaves the ball. And even though you don't technically keep score in first grade soccer, he wants so badly to win.

It's not about winning and losing when you play first grade soccer. You're supposed to learn about being part of a team and practicing good sportsmanship and all that feel-good stuff that gives kids like me false hope about their athletic futures. Jack will sit patiently through the team-building exercises and play Red Rover over and over and over again, but all he really wants to do is play soccer.

I'll never have that drive. I'll never feel that competitive intensity that pushes you to play to win. But I will have the sidelines.

Being the working parent means you sometimes feel disconnected from your kids' schools. I worried about that in the beginning, especially since we live across town from our school. Would I get to know the other parents? Would I feel like I belonged?

I've spent the last month watching Brent out on the field in coach mode while Sawyer runs with the other little brothers and sisters who will probably be on his soccer teams someday. I've been a big contributor to the official sideline chatter. I've shared shared snacks and blankets and cheered for kids who we'll know for at least the next 11 years. And while I've watched Jack's circle of friends expanding, I've made new friends of my own.

The last soccer game of the season was a relief, no more evening practices that leave us sitting down to a rushed dinner at 7, no hustle out the door to make a 9am Saturday game. But I have to admit that it's also a bit of a letdown. I have learned to love the game, too.

But only from the sidelines.


  1. Aw, Cassadie, I feel sad for the days you were trying hard in school sport teams and feeling you were failing or not being good enough :-(. I had those days - where I was always one of the last of the class to be chosen when we had to split the class in two for a sports match. But as an adult, I am probably sportier than every other person in those classes; and I climb walls, and I climb mountains. And sometimes I'd like to sit those kids down, who chose me last because they thought I couldn't, and say: Look, it was probably just confidence - and if you'd given me a chance, it could have been different.

    So you have a different resolution to mine, you get to encourage the small ones from the sidelines and help them build their confidence! Also cool!

    (PS Thank you for the amazing comment on my last blog - it means/meant so much to me. It's going into my "keep for encouragement" folder for blue days).

    Have a great week!

  2. Cassadie,
    My boys aren't quite old enough to be in any organized sports activities quite yet, but I've been trying to imagine the hectic part of chasing them around and having our schedule dictated by practices and games, not dinner and work schedules. In all honesty, I've sort of been dreading it. I watch my brothers and their wives run their kids in a million different directions and it all looks so... exhausting. Thank you for reminding me that their are also so many other positive things to come with it, too. New friendships for the boys, and us. Of course wonderful life lessons, but the thing I most look forward to is seeing their little personalities blossom out in the "real" world when mom and dad aren't the center of it anymore. Thanks for helping me see the bright side instead of the dread. :)