Starting when Andrew was in first grade, Nancy and I spent our falls and springs and summers (and sometimes winters) being a soccer mom and dad. Andrew played recreational soccer starting in Middlebury (IN) and then made a travel team in third grade (even as I write this, I think, “third grade? what were we thinking?”) We moved back to Fort Wayne and got into soccer here. Andrew played for several teams at several levels, including his freshman year in college.
We went to as many games as possible, worried as much as is normal, cheered in our own quiet way, and even occasionally carpooled. With a minivan.
And then Andrew left the college team.
It was the right decision and a very mature one. (The coach quit afer the same game). The other players weren’t taking the game and the school and the rules seriously. And Andrew stopped having fun.
Here’s why that is maturity and not “being a quitter”. Soccer is a game. I know how dominant metaphors are and sports metaphors permeate our lives. I know that there is a need to persevere. I know that there is a need to be responsible. But soccer is a game. And the best way to take it seriously is to make sure it is fun. And if the only reason you play is because you get a scholarship, that’s not fun.
I respected his decision, even though it meant that Nancy and I lost our identity.
Now it’s 19 months after Andrew walked away from college ball. Today Nancy and I sat on bleachers. The thunder rumbled in the background. Our eyes were on number 14, blue. Andrew is playing for the Fort Wayne Sport Club U23 men’s team. It’s pretty serious, in a fun kind of way. There are officials, uniforms, fees. People play with shoving, intense voices, and sweat.
Last summer, this team won the championship, got a picture with the trophy, and went on with their real lives. We only saw a couple games. We wanted it to be fun and to not be part of pressure.
Today was the first game of the new season. They won 3-0 in a rain-shortened game. Andrew had a great time. And so did we.
There aren’t many parents on the sidelines for these games, and there weren’t many girlfriends today. But it’s not about the audience or the scholarships or the trophy or the pushy parents or anything other than a bunch of guys who love the game.
Being who we were back then, for Andrew and Nancy and I, was fine. Being part of the kids soccer machine was important and we all learned. But I don’t miss us that us at all. Where we are now is great. Parents who just get to watch, a son who just gets to play, and a sister who got to stay home and learn music for a musical.
Thanks, Andrew, for honoring the game…as a game.