Love and Soccer
Contributor Pooja Mittal
When my daughter was 6, she fell in love with soccer. She played on a co-ed school team and was so engaged in it, that the next season, she tried out for club soccer. She was placed on a team and we became soccer parents: multiple weekly practices, even in the rain, and games every weekend with travel for tournaments. And, we too, fell in love with the game and with watching her play. She learned so much from playing: how to work with different types of people towards a common goal, the importance of putting the team before herself, and how to have fun playing a sport with other girls who loved it as much as she did. She continued to play season after season. I also took on the identity of the soccer mom: driving her to practice across the city, building friendships with the other parents, and cheering on the girls at games.
When my second daughter turned 6, she too decided to play soccer. Because of our really positive experiences with club soccer, we encouraged her to try out and she too, was placed on a team. We were in deep, five practices a week between the two girls, games both days of the weekends and much more frequent travel. I stopped enjoying the daily routine of it and started dreading the super-early morning games 2 hours away. However, my girls loved it, and so I persevered and continued to cheer them on.
One day, both girls approached me and asked if they could start taking Karate. They had been watching a show called “Kicking It” which had a female main character who was a black belt. I considered the request, but told them after careful consideration that it would not be possible to take this on. Soccer was 7 days a week. Karate was 3 days a week – even if they just went twice a week, it was too much. They understood and put Karate on the back burner.
As the months went on, things started to change, there were days when my oldest would wake up in the morning on a Saturday and say she didn’t feel like going to soccer, “can’t I just stay home today?” I was perplexed. In the same way that I was getting burnt out from the grind of the routine, so were the girls. That winter, my oldest sat down to tell me that she needed a break from soccer. I was surprised but when I reflected back, I had noticed that her heart wasn’t in it and she was not always giving her team her best. When I pushed her to explain why, she said that she had realized that she wasn’t loving it anymore and that was not fair to her team. She had realized that she really wanted the chance to try other sports. With heavy hearts, we let both of their coaches know that they would not be returning for the spring season.
But after we mourned losing the huge influence of the sport of soccer on our daily lives, we also began to see possibilities. The girls started karate that winter and have fallen in love with a sport all over again. After doing karate for the last few months, they still get excited about every class. They are engaged and working hard. My daughter is so excited to also have the chance to play ultimate Frisbee, run cross country and maybe even try out for fall basketball.
As Mia Hamm said, “"If you don't love what you do, you won't do it with much conviction or passion.” We will always appreciate soccer for starting our journey as parents of girls who play and love sports. And our girls are lucky to have had the opportunity to play and love not just soccer, but anything else thrown their way.