Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What Soccer Camp Taught Me

I have resisted the label for years but deep down I knew it was only a matter of time before I truly (and literally) became one.  And last week, I finally did.  But only for a week, at least for now.

Soccer Mom…..that suburban creature whose life is mainly spent driving around her children in her minivan or SUV to go from one activity to another, barely finding time to breathe. 

Well, at least that has been the stereotype and suffice it to say that I have done everything in my power to not fall into this category, no matter how lame my efforts have been.  For instance, I have held on to driving my Toyota Camry instead of our van, but really if I had my way, I would drive a Prius.  But let’s save that for when I win the lottery, shall we?  For now, I still see no point in driving the minivan considering I only have one passenger.  It just doesn’t make sense to me. 

Anyway, last week, my son attended his very first Soccer Camp.  At first I was excited but upon finding out that most of the other kids in the class had either gone through it before or have been playing soccer, I got nervous.  Worst of all, the competitive mother bear in me was roused.  I knew I had to tame it with much effort every single time we showed up last week.  I knew myself well enough to know that I would be spending time trying to see if my son can run fast enough, have enough control with the ball, follow instructions and everything else.  I had to constantly consciously remind myself that we were there to just have fun.  There was no reason to take this too seriously......(yeah right?...me?...not take things too seriously?.....good luck!)


Well, actually, I'm proud to say that I did not pressure my boy to take the activity too seriously.  Yes, I did remind him a lot to pay attention to the coach.  And yes, he got sick of me telling him incessantly, "FOCUS".  But I definitely did not tell him to compete and be aggressive.  I made it a conscious effort to ask him after each session if he had fun, and to commend him for merely wanting to show up everyday despite being so tired and realizing that all that running was kicking his butt.


I have to admit though that watching my son play did not at all stop me from taking it seriously, in the sense that I took it as an opportunity to learn more about him, and my self as well.

For instance, I realized that he still gets distracted a lot.  His preschool teacher had told me that he is mature, can definitely follow multi-step instructions and is attentive.  So I was definitely surprised when I observed that during the soccer games, he had a tendency to look around and get distracted, and in the process, miss instructions.  I had to 'coach' him after the sessions to point out that being clear about the objective of the game is the most necessary ingredient; that if he is not clear about the goal, then there is no chance of winning or finishing successfully.  Case in point:  They were playing this game, similar to playing tag, where if you grab someone's 'tail' (a piece of cloth dangling from their pockets), that person needs to stop running and freeze.  For as long as you have your 'tail', you can still run around and play on.  I realized that Noah thought the objective was to grab as many tails as possible.  I then told him, "NO!  The objective is to KEEP your tail and stay in the game for as long as you could". After that, he realized that the strategy was to run away from the crowd and keep away from those that are chasing him / running after his 'tail'.  When he became clear about this, he finished an entire round as one of five who survived and remained 'unfrozen'.




I also saw that my son is more about precision (and also strategy) than speed; process and not just result.  This is double-edged of course.  He never finished 'first', but I appreciate that I see him thinking while playing; figuring out how best to 'attack' instead of just mindlessly kicking; giving importance to how something is done instead of just doing it.  I know this is not always recommended and that in sports, speed and agility also count.  The scary thing is that I could see how he tends to over-think things (*cough cough*) and this causes much delay and / or inaction even.  It was both fun and painful to watch, that much I can say.  I couldn't quite decide if I should be proud or feel scared.

He also plays ‘nice’ and is definitely not very assertive.  I can't fault him for this because I understand that much of this is also genetic.  Though I think I am more competitive and assertive than my son (especially when I was a child), I also know that I hate getting physical and rough.  This is why I am getting convinced that non-contact sports might be best for Noah.  Let's think track & field, swimming and of course, tennis!

Lastly, I see that he is adaptable, resilient and not a cry baby.  In a way, I suspect this is related to him not being assertive, such that he tends to just accept situations.  He doesn't complain a lot (at least not publicly) and this is also why I know that I need to teach him when and how to speak up; to teach him about boundaries and rights.  On the last day of camp, he got hit by a ball in the face and yet he still did not cry.  He held it all in and though I saw how scared and in pain he was, he put up a brave front and wanted to act like a 'big boy'.  I was more upset than he was I guess, but I suppose it helped me calm down when he told me that the other boy who kicked the ball apologized after all.  Oh well...

Parenthood does bring out the best and the worst in us.  It can challenge you to deliver more than what you ever thought you were capable of.  But, as I’ve realized, it can also amplify the ugly things about us, or at least the things we want to change or have always wanted to develop but never did.  And as we see these traits in our children, we go through the whole gamut of emotions…from shame, frustration, anger, to feeling challenged, reaching acceptance and finally being truly at peace with what we see.  One thing is certain.  Soccer Mom or not, parenting demands sportsmanship and endurance as we go out and navigate our daily lives with our precious little cargo in tow.  More importantly, soccer mom or not, please remember to 'drive' safely and focus on the journey while having fun.






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