I have a confession.
It bothers me that my daughter isn’t a stellar soccer player.
Further, it bothers me that it bothers me that my daughter isn’t a stellar soccer player.
I’ll give you a minute to process those two statements.
When I delivered a beautiful baby girl almost eight years ago, I had a vision for what I wanted for her life. I prayed for health, happiness, and spiritual wisdom (hers and ours). I definitely didn’t have any strong desire for my daughter to play sports. Why? Because I didn’t play sports. In fact, I have no hand-eye coordination (or foot-eye coordination, for that matter) and early on I found my sweet spot in more creative endeavors and never looked back.
My husband, on the other hand, played every sport under the sun. To him, there was no doubt our little girl would be a natural athlete. Of course, the decision about what activities she wanted to pursue wasn’t up to us, so we waited for her to develop her own interests. Now, she really enjoys dance, has played one season of basketball, and excels in school. We are so very proud of her accomplishments.
And then there’s soccer.
Frankly, soccer stresses me out. The first year she played would have been comical if her teammates weren’t already so skilled. I expected to watch five-year-olds twirling on the soccer field, but instead I spent the entire year watching intense games while pretending her lackadaisical approach didn’t bother me. But it did. She stood around, played with her hair, approached the ball only when the Mars and Jupiter aligned, and looked forward to the post-game snacks far more than the actual games. I was relieved when the season came to an end and I asked her if she wanted to keep playing. I expected her to acknowledge that soccer might not be “her thing” and I secretly hoped she would want to move on to something else.
She wanted to keep playing. She loved soccer.
The second year was a little better and she started to play with a sense of purpose. She made her first goal and I may or may not have shed a tear. The upward trajectory was short-lived, however, and she began to regress. My husband and I were frustrated and threw around phrases about “not applying yourself” and others we heard from our parents and vowed never to utter to our own children. At the end of the season, I asked her if she wanted to keep playing. Again, I secretly hoped she would ask to try something else instead.
And again she wanted to keep playing. She loved soccer.
So here we are nearing the end of her third full year of soccer. Most people say, “it’s only a game” but it’s also very difficult to watch your child struggle at said game. I hate watching her try so hard and still completely miss the ball or never get the ball at all. I hate listening to the exasperation in her coach’s voice when he addresses her during the games. I hate listening to the exasperation in my own voice, and that of my husband’s, when we call out to her from the sidelines. And I hate not knowing how I’m supposed to handle the post-game talk. If I don’t address her performance at all, I feel like I’m doing her a disservice. If I come down hard on her, I’m not adhering to the philosophy that youth sports are supposed to be fun.