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September 8, 2010


Right now, all over the country — all over the world, I guess — parents are watching kids kick black and white soccer balls up and down grassy fields. I’ve been doing this off and on for the past ten years.

Today I was thinking how much the “soccer mom” thing has changed since I first started signing my kids up to play, back in 2000. Ten years ago, I had to drive to a certain building in my city, walk inside to a desk, and personally fill out some forms. Then I had to personally write a check or pay in cash for the season. I don’t think we could even use credit cards back then.

While signing up in person, I was given a handout that told me a date where I had to show up — in person — to receive the team roster and practice schedule. After that, the coaches contacted us parents by phone to let us know about team practices and games. Nobody used email for this sort of thing.

One mom usually became the designated “team mom,” and she acquired the time-consuming chore of calling all the parents to arrange who would bring snacks and where the end-of-the-season party would be held. Everything was accomplished by telephone or in person.

Now, ten years later, being a soccer mom in an internet world is completely different. A few weeks before the season begins, I sign up online. There’s a website for our rec department, and I type in our family code, click here and there, and pay by credit card. It takes less than five minutes, and I can do it in my pajamas.

Later, I receive a welcoming email sent from a secret place that says “DO NOT REPLY TO THIS EMAIL!” This message tells me when and where the soccer evaluations will be held. We show up. The kids run around for a while, and the coaches see who’s pretty good and who’s never played before, and they assign them to teams so their skill levels are evenly distributed.

Then I get an email with three attachments: team rosters, practice schedule, and game schedule. This year marks the first time I’ve ever had a coach coordinate our snack-drink schedule in advance so that each parent takes a turn. He arranged the schedule by email, of course. How nice!

I’m wondering if my experiences are similar to other soccer moms. What’s it like for parents in France or England or Japan? We have fall soccer and spring soccer, but now in our city, we also have an indoor winter league, so kids who are absolutely crazy about soccer can play year-round. In the summer, we have these British college guys who come over and swelter in our Georgia heat coaching hundreds of kids in soccer camps.

We’ve tried nearly every other sport, but I confess that soccer is the most fun for me to watch. Everybody is more relaxed and friendly. When I had a son in baseball last year, people were loud and vicious, yelling “COME ON JAKE! EYE ON THE BALL SON! FOCUS, SON! PAY ATTENTION JAKEY BOY!!!” It was intimidating for quiet people like me. My stomach was tied up in knots as I watched my son at bat, praying, “Please don’t strike out. Just hit it!” I didn’t like the pressure of baseball, and apparently my son didn’t either because we’re back to soccer where TEAM is the word.

Really, there’s nothing I would rather be doing at my age than watching kids run around in the afternoon sunshine on a green-clipped soccer field. It’s so fun! It also gives me an excuse to talk to all these interesting people, the other parents and grandparents, as we watch our kids kick their way through childhood, heading toward adolescence.

Sure, we’re better connected now behind the scenes than we were ten years ago. But not much else has changed. Soccer’s still all about getting kids together, away from the TV, out into the sun. We put them in different colored t-shirts on teams to make all this play more organized.

And like good soccer moms, we cheer them on.