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Resources May 26, 2015

Soccer Mom: Love her or leave her?

WendyLeBolt-HeaderWho is “Soccer Mom”?

Call me oblivious. When I got into the soccer racket, my 5-year-old picked dandelions and turned cartwheels, happily watching as the kids who actually knew there was a game going on dribbled by on their way to shooting, scoring and high-fiving.

My kid was satisfied if there were oranges at halftime, snacks and juice boxes postgame.

+READ: Best advice for soccer parents: Keep quiet on the ride home

Sure, we had a head coach and maybe a couple of assistant coaches, usually good-natured men who always featured prominently in the team photo, but working behind the scenes was the ‘Team Mom,’ making the snack schedule, organizing the team party, collecting for coach’s gifts. She was what made the team tick.

The rest of us had just one job: to get our kid to soccer. Simple enough: kid + ball (proper size, of course) + water + cleats + shin guards + shirt/shorts/socks = kid ready to play.

Simple, until there are siblings that need loading up, or maybe siblings that need to get to their own practices or their own games which inevitably are across town and at the same time and coach wants them there early for warm-ups and a pep talk. Somewhere in the midst of this, Soccer Mom was born.

IMG_2878It’s hard to believe, but the term “Soccer Mom” has only been in regular use since 1996, when she was a highly sought after “swing voter” in the election of that year.  According to Wikipedia:

“One candidate, Susan B. Casey, ran with the slogan ‘A Soccer Mom for City Council.’ Casey, who had a PhD and managed presidential election campaigns, used the slogan as a way of assuring voters they could trust her to be ‘just like them,’ inviting herself to be everybody’s neighbor.”

*Editor’s note: Veteran U.S. soccer fans may remember that Susan Casey is the mother of Philadelphia Union forward and former U.S. Men’s National Team player Conor Casey

Soccer moms received so much attention during the election that the American Dialect Society voted “soccer mom” Word of the Year for 1996. The columnist Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe called 1996 “the Year of the Soccer Mom.”

+READ: LeBolt: Real parents don’t need instructions

In 1996 it described a new phenomena in family lifestyle. Soccer Mom was portrayed as the overburdened, suburban, middle income professional or stay-at-home mother who ferries her kids from soccer practice to scouts to school.

With the growth in after-school sports for children, today’s Soccer Moms are everywhere. They are carting the neighborhood children to and from their activities in their SUVs — what else will hold six chattering kids and all their gear? — generally in the midst of “rush hour,” conducting personal and family business by cell phone along the way.

For mothers with younger children, this means carting them along. For mothers with daytime jobs, this means hurrying to switch gears. In either case, it presents a challenge. Not to be denied, Soccer Mom has risen to the challenge, sacrificially donating the time on the road to the cause of her kids’ activities.

WAGSQUAL-Broll-parentsBut Soccer Mom didn’t stop there. As teams formed and clubs scheduled weekend games, then playoffs and tournaments, Soccer Mom expanded her role. Now, in addition to showing up on gameday to cheer, she must bring snack, plan the team party, schedule team pictures, order team trophies, stock the first aid kit, keep the roster…well, you get the picture. She is juggling it all behind the scenes so the kids can have fun, get some exercise and, of course, win the tournament.

Soccer Mom has taken on a life of her own.

Where did Soccer Mom come from?

I believe Soccer Mom is the new Super Mom. You remember Super Mom. She had a full-time job, kept house, volunteered in her children’s schools, participated in community activities, and was fully present for husband and children whenever they were in need. Perhaps she leapt tall buildings in a single bound in her spare time.

After a while, with no cape or super powers, this heroic lifestyle takes its toll. Super Mom had a decision to make: keep everything afloat and watch herself self-destruct or sacrifice something to continue her quality performance with the rest. Out of self-preservation, Super Mom gave up the paying  job (or moved to part-time) and re-invented herself as Soccer Mom.

+READ: LeBolt: The high cost of loyalty in today’s youth soccer culture

She may have traded heels for sneakers, but she’s still Super Mom. She has thrown herself full-force into her children’s activities with the gusto she used to reserve for the office. She has taken her job performance to the sidelines, along with her social life, professional parenting and sometimes, office politics.

Usually, Soccer Mom doesn’t get much glory. Perhaps a bouquet and a thanks at the team banquet.

That’s a big pay cut.

Personally, I wasn’t ready for the sidelines when I first made that transition. Happily, a veteran coach asked me to be his assistant. I took to the field instead of the sidelines, but I understood the parents’ wanting to be part of the team, so I made sure all of them were given the chance to participate. The Moms and Dads on my teams were incredibly gracious. The “kids vs. parents” soccer game was always the highlight of the season.

Loudoun03Red-NJWildcatslopez-CoachTaylor-WAGST14Apparently and unfortunately, other coaches did not have the same experience with their parents. Especially as the kids got older, with competition stiffer and the parents more bold, a new breed of “Soccer Mom” emerged.

I was a Mom, drove an SUV, and my kids played soccer. So, was I a Soccer Mom? I didn’t like how Soccer Mom lore was evolving, so, from the beginning I steered clear of the label. Today, I’m glad I did, because people don’t seem to like her very much. What went wrong?

Soccer Mom has generated quite a lot of interest. I found this out when I googled her. No longer just a Mom driving kids to their sports activities, Soccer Mom now seems to be:

  • A crazy driver nearly causing accidents speeding to and from after school sports activities in her SUV.
  • A wildly vocal women shouting instructions from the sidelines of youth sporting events.
  • An overbearing parent giving the coach a little friendly advice after the game.

And the Urban Dictionary has some pretty choice descriptions of her, too.

Who IS THIS? How did she get on our sidelines? And what should we do with her?

It all began so innocently: one kid, one field, one snack day. Multiply this times # of kids, # of sports, #of days per week that Dad is traveling or kept late at work, and things get… interesting. A Soccer Mom you never saw yourself being, is born.

+READ: Lebolt: Mothers of the Game

Somehow, investing herself full-time in her kids has been an expensive proposition for Soccer Mom. Perhaps we should retire Soccer Mom alongside her nearest relative, Super Mom. Of course, the Urban Dictionary will rage on, though it is much kinder to Soccer Dad. Just who’s running this internet, anyway?

So I guess you’d have to call me a “recovering” Soccer Mom.  I am the Mom to three (now, former) soccer-playing kids and thousands of still soccer-playing young people whom I have come to know through our great game.

Sometimes they call, but they’re always quick to text.  Some, call me Coach. Some, call me (Dr.) Wendy. Some will always call me Mom. But I do draw the line at Soccer Mom.

Let’s give Soccer Mom a break, shall we?

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