OPINION

A travel soccer mom’s truth

Jennifer Fischer
Jennifer Fischer

Last year I did something I said I’d never do. I became a travel soccer mom.

This term usually describes a North American, suburban woman who spends much of her time transporting children to sporting events. I had figured these events took place throughout the week, in different towns and places, and in a three-rowed SUV. I had only heard stories, but I was about to learn more about these truths.

I will begin by saying that everyone knows getting your children involved in organized sports carries with it an abundance of positive outcomes. Sports help kids to work with others toward a common goal and to have a sense of belonging. They improve confidence, mental and physical health and help young minds stay out of trouble. I never debated any of that. It did, however, come with other pieces I hadn’t thought much about or anticipated.

The commitment

My three daughters have their entire week planned out around soccer, as do I. We eat dinner at 4:30 p.m. or 9 p.m. a few nights a week because that’s part of the deal. Trainers, scrimmages and practices get us ready for the doubleheaders my family attends each Saturday, usually at least an hour away.

I can’t forget about the tournaments, too, which consisted of six games last weekend. We also have fundraising, cleats, shin guards, uniforms and various soccer accessories to account for. Soccer costs us the equivalent of a small vacation. We skip parties and invitations and are in our pajamas by 7 p.m. most Saturdays as we are exhausted from the week. I wash uniforms and socks on rotation. It is a lot. I will confess, however, that every second we have devoted to this, as well as every penny we have spent, has been the best investment in time and money we have ever made.

The other moms (dads, grandmas, etc.)

I was worried about this one. Some of these parents played soccer when they were kids. Some of them know every rule and every position and get fired up at the referees. I grew up not sporty at all, playing with Barbies and would occasionally be dragged to my brother’s baseball games or my sister’s dance recitals. Would I just hide on the sideline and follow their lead? Would they let the “new mom” into the club? I found out quickly the answer was a solid yes. These parents cheer for my kids like their own. They welcomed me and taught me what off-sides meant. They show up every week with genuine care and friendship and a camaraderie that I never expected. We are our own little private cheerleading squad, the one I was never on, and I love it.

The other team

Girls can be tough, but truth be told, this is one of my favorite parts. The amount of effort I have witnessed has been enormous. The best players, the newest players and even the players just trying to keep up all love what they are doing. They eat, breathe, sweat and dream about soccer. They laugh together, they support each other and they stand united, week after week. Win or lose. Rain or shine. On the field or on the sidelines. My oldest daughter joined her soccer team, by herself, in a town where she knew nobody. I was terrified for her and yet it is my hope that some of these friendships being forged today will remain lifetime ones. Nobody is trying to make it into the Olympics or get a scholarship at 8 or 10 years old. They just love the game. I am in constant awe of them. Us adults have so much to learn from their spirit and dedication.

The coaches

This is an easy one. The coaches I have met are idolized and adored by my children and the rest of their team. They show up and push their players to be the best versions of themselves. They work long days at their real jobs, take time away from their families and are not paid a dime for any of it. They make sacrifices each week to mold every child they encounter into an athlete and a member of their team. They deal with me, other parents, other coaches, rules, regulations, schedules, triumphs and tears. They win some and they lose some. They make it look easy, but boy do they deserve a medal.

The end game

I know that one day may look very different from today. My girls may lose interest and find something else that fires their little souls. That’s OK. True beauty is in the journey sometimes and not the destination. My kids are learning so much along the way and if it lasts for a few months or for a lifetime, I will continue to show up and support them on this adventure. Maybe this will inspire some other mom to go do that thing they said they never would. I truly wouldn’t miss any of it for the world because, in the end, it makes me just as happy as it makes my kids – minus the 9 p.m. dinner.

Jennifer Fischer is the deputy publisher of CherryRoad Media.