Yesterday, my mother had yet another box of crap waiting for me. This time, it was filled with six-inch tall cards depicting various sports, clearly a collection I’d decided to invest in after seeing a commercial for them during re-runs of The Brady Bunch. After I let my kids root through them, I plan to recycle them, because I no longer care about high jumpers from 1979 in short shorts. Well, it depends on the high jumper.
But there was also a drinking glass that reads:
North West Bergen Soccer Association
I thought back to my glory days of soccer and remembered…not much about it. Not the coaches’ names on the front of the glass. Not my teammates’ names on the back. Not even — and this is the most striking part to me — not even the championship.
Why can’t I remember what must have been a dozen 11-year-old girls screaming and hugging each other, tears streaming down our faces, and the subsequent victory trip to the ice cream shop?
“Swift Clouds,” I tut-tutted to my mother. “Why did the girls’ teams have such wimpy names? The Morning Glories? The Sunflowers?”
Those, I could remember.
“We just had Title IX!” my mother shot back. “You’re lucky you had a team at all!”
She was right, of course. The girls a grade or two ahead of me had to play on the boys’ teams for a few years if they wanted to play soccer at all. The Swift Clouds were victorious before we even played our first game.
There are still little victories in soccer for me. There was the old man at the registration table for the soccer coach class a few years ago who wasn’t sure why I was there. I approached the table, positioned outside a conference room in the basement of the hospital, and gave my name.
“And you’re here for…?” he asked.
I turned around to assess my other option: A meeting about prostate cancer treatments.
“Soccer coach,” I asserted.
“Oh,” he said, clearly confused, and reluctantly pointed to the door to the soccer coach meeting. I was the only woman in there.
Last night, at the indoor soccer bubble a few towns over, I watched the trainers do their jobs. Four fields, four trainers — all of them men.
One trainer with a thick British accent shouted to the girls on his field, “Name one team that will play in the World Cup this year.” A girl shouted, “Brazil!” And he passed her the ball.
“Now tell me, who will win the World Cup?” he yelled.
“Brazil?” one girl offered.
“No,” he replied.
“France?” another answered.
“Spain?” another said.
“England!” he shouted, exasperated.
Meanwhile, alongside the field, another trainer was juggling a ball by herself. She was the first and only female trainer I’d ever seen there, and I wanted to run up to her and show her my Swift Clouds glass. I wanted to tell her about Title IX and the time a neighbor seemed surprised that I was coaching boys’ soccer.
“I know I’m at an advantage,” I’d retorted, “because I don’t have to cover my privates during direct kicks, but the boys aren’t jealous.”
As she took the field with a dozen girls in tow, the male trainer high-fived her as he came off the field, and I realized that I didn’t have to tell her thing.