A PSA: The Odds of Your Son Becoming a Pro Soccer Player are 1 in 5,768
Reasons why you should stop living through your child
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
My son was born with a basketball in his hands. Okay, not really. But my stomach looked like someone had put a large basketball under my shirt, so maybe that counts.
In truth, my son was born wailing for some attention and he’s never stopped. The same day he made his appearance, I was inducted into the world of mothers.
There were a lot of perks in this club, but it wasn’t always a fun world. Fierce competition. No joke here, really fierce.
Life in a mom’s group was all about one upping your mom friends.
“Oh Jake is in the 95 percentile for height? Sam is in the 97th. Can you believe that?”
Sometimes I feel like calling Sam’s mom up today and saying, “So tell me, what percentile of height is Sam in now? What? You don’t know? It’s not important? Then why was it so goddamn important when they were four months old?”
Here’s another good one I heard. “You weaned him? Why did you do that? So what if he’s eighteen months old. Dr. Sears says to let them naturally wean themselves.” Oh really? So are you planning to attend college with your little one if he hasn’t yet decided to wean when he’s eighteen. Okay, that’s sarcasm. But seriously, why couldn’t these people mind their own business?
It was a brutal world! And things were about to get worse.
Jake really had been blessed with an amazing athletic ability. He managed to get his first basket when he was just eighteen months old. Granted, he was on my dad’s shoulders, but that was a heavy ball.
By the time he was three, he could whip the baseball from second base to home plate. It was a kick to watch. He called the hippo an hipempopous, but he could throw a ball further than most third-graders.
It was fun, but I didn’t much care. I mean, I was an English major. I loved that he had a really active imagination and played well with others. I appreciated these fine three-year-old traits. And had no idea what storm was brewing.
I think the first team that Jake played on was a t-ball team called The Incredibles. He was maybe five-and-a-half. T-Ball is a fun, clean sport right? Sure it is, until you add a bunch of asshat parents screaming things like “Everyone move in, this kid can’t bat” or “Jordon, why did you miss that?!? No ice cream for you tonight.” I’m not even kidding.
We moved to the midwest soon after that and I thought (prayed, hoped) things would be better. What was I even thinking? This is the MIDWEST we are talking about here.
By the time Jake was eight, a club soccer team got their fingers into him. They made a big production about how he had been selected to the premier club team and what an honor it was. Only a few boys in his class were invited to play at this level. Then they dropped the two thousand dollar price on us, not including travel. And I was sucked right into it. I didn’t want my son to be left out. What would happen if I didn’t allow him to do this? Would he miss his opportunity? I still don’t have an answer for what this opportunity actually was, but dammit, my son was going to be on board.
The team decided to put him at goalie, permanently. Ask anyone who knows anything about soccer and they’ll tell you to not let a kid pick a permanent position till they are much older. But what did I know?
Jake became pigeonholed in goalie.
He played on the same team for four years. There were some good things to this whole experience. He became a hell of a goalie. We spent weekends in others states with the team and both the parents and kids really bonded. It was a lot of fun.
But, Jake also played soccer six days a week. I had to stand on the sideline and listen to terrible things being said from the parents and the coaches. I actually almost went toe-to-toe with a mom who told her kid to kick the goalie (my son) in the head. And we probably used about $30,000 on soccer.
By the time Jake hit thirteen, he told me was bored with soccer and decided to change to football. Did I say, “Hey kid, I’ve already invested $30,000 dollars in your eventual professional soccer career where you will get a starting salary of $35,125 a year?”
Nope. I said, “Okay,” and happily said goodbye to weekends away from my family (and hello to football concussions).
It’s been awhile and I’m starting to see my friends with younger kids go through the this whole scam —um, I mean scenario.
I’ve had some time to reflect on the whole thing and one thought keeps playing over and over in my mind. “What the fuck was I thinking?”
Seriously, what kind of hell did I get caught up in? I never wanted my kid to play pro any sport, I didn’t even want him to get a scholarship to a college for a sport. Those things just suck all the joy out of the college experience.
I think I just wanted to him to have fun. And somewhere in that fun equation, the Keeping Up With The Jones mentality came into play. I stopped realizing my son wasn’t my accessory, nor was it me out there playing.
I’m willing to bet that if you ask 100 kids what the worst part of their sports experience has been, a good portion of them would say The Parents. Wah wah wah. We can’t pull back long enough to realize that this individual we made is now his own man and we aren’t a part of the game.
Consider this a PSA for those of you who have younger kids. Don’t spend thousands and thousands of dollars on these lame club sports in the hopes that some day you can brag that little Johnny got a scholarship to a D1 school. (A scholarship that was split sixteen ways, but you’ll leave that part out).
I think most of the people I know who hear about a kid’s athletic scholarship will be like “Gee, good news,” and move on to the next topic, because we don’t care.
Let your kid pick whatever extracurricular activity they want, and at the end of the day, remember to ask them, “Did you have a good time?” and nothing else.
I know it’s really hard to do, but it will lift the burden off your back of trying to live two peoples lives when you know in the back of your mind that it’s time to let one of them go.