“Is that a soccer ball?” the nurse at my son’s pediatrician’s office asked, pointing to my necklace. I nodded.
“Cute!” she said, before adding, “Did your kids give you that?” Which is another way of saying, “Surely you’re not wearing a soccer ball necklace because you want to. What grown woman does that?”
I do. I am a soccer mom. Not just a soccer mom who cheers her brood of players from the sidelines, but a coaching, playing soccer mom with a bag full of soccer balls in the back of my mini-van and a signed New York Cosmos soccer ball on my desk. I own — and frequently wear — two pairs of soccer cleats, and I was enthusiastic (or, in my husband’s opinion, perhaps stupid) enough to attend a Major League Soccer final in the pouring rain while pregnant.
I’m the mom who used her shoes, a water bottle and some sunscreen to illustrate the offside rule to parents on the sidelines of a U-10 boys’ soccer game here in town last spring. (“Okay, Poland Spring has the ball…”).
But it’s not my fault. I was raised this way.
My mother was a soccer mom before I was — before they even coined the term. Though she didn’t play the sport, she did coach my team, and she drove a station wagon filled with family to Giants Stadium to use our season tickets at Cosmos games from 1977 until 1985.
It is because of my mother, the original soccer mom, that my brother, my soccer-playing son and I didn’t get up and run under the overhang at the Red Bulls game on Sunday when it started pouring rain. Rather, we did what we’ve always done:
Notice that nobody else is sitting around us.
This is not to say that we are super crazy soccer fans or anything. We leave that up to other folks.
But we do love the sport. Which is why I was in my glory last weekend when I attended a class to procure my F license, which will allow me to “legally” coach my son’s travel soccer team this fall. I’d thought we were told to bring our turf shoes because we were going to jog around the field a bit and watch other people do drills. I had no idea that I’d pretty much be playing soccer for the better part of four hours.
Naturally, I played that much because I volunteered for it. When the teacher asked for a few folks to demonstrate the first drill, a couple of men sauntered out onto the field while everyone else stared at their own shoes, trying to avoid being chosen. Someone had to represent the female gender, so I raised my hand.
I soon found myself up against a South American coach who still plays the sport. South America, where they come out of the womb dribbling soccer balls. Oh, no.
While he showed off his dribbling and faking prowess, I contained him, waiting for him to finish showing off. The moment he made a small mistake, I rushed in, stole the ball and scored a goal while the folks on the sidelines cheered. I don’t think they expected that from a woman in a Coney Island T-shirt and sneakers. (I’d retired my turf shoes after college ball.) And it felt a little like this:
By the end of the day, the other coaches-to-be were saying, “Jen, come play with the boys.” And I did. And then I couldn’t move very well for three days afterwards because I was so sore. But it was worth it, because I am a soccer mom.
I’ve since gone out to buy some new turf shoes, and I’ve started eyeing up the indoor leagues for grown-ups for the winter. Meanwhile, I’ll be coaching my son’s team, thanks to my F license and the soccer mom who helped mold this soccer mom many years (and quite a few games as spectators in ponchos) ago.
P.S. If you’re new to soccer and want to learn the rules, check out this entertaining and helpful video by Alex Mebane, “So You Decided to Play Soccer.” I have no affiliation with it. Alex sent me the video because I’m a soccer mom, and I really liked it.