If you had asked me a few years ago if I would go someplace I’ve never been, to do an activity I’ve never done before, with a group of people I had never met, I would have scoffed at the idea.
Last spring, I became a soccer (playing) mom.
An opportunity arose for me to join a soccer team. It was Mother’s Day and a complete stranger posted on a local Facebook forum looking for a soccer player to sub for his team, specifically a female. Impulsively, I decided to message him.
I was upfront about my ability or lack thereof. I had never actually played soccer before, though I am typically athletic and had played other sports. I would not head the ball ever, as I have a history of head injuries. I would likely get a few handball calls before I got the hang of it. He was ok with everything I told him. They simply needed a woman to meet the league criteria of 2 women on the field at all times. They only had 1, so all I had to do was show up. I could do that, right? It turned out that the game he needed me for was in mere hours. Eek!
While discussing the soccer opportunity with my husband, my oldest, soccer-playing son overheard. He suddenly ran up to me and excitedly said, “Do it, Mom! You’ll have fun! Do it!” His encouragement was heartwarming and tipped the scales in favor of giving it a try.
With the chance to escape my “mom” identity in front of me, that very identity is exactly what gave me the courage to seize this opportunity. And thus, I became a soccer (playing) mom!
You see, the scenario I described is exactly what we ask our kids to do regularly. With daycare, school, summer camps, and sports.
In assessing the opportunity and my fears surrounding it, I found my own courage after reflecting on my pride in my children’s courage in those situations. Were they nervous? Yes. Did they do it anyway? Also yes. And at the end of the day, I got to hear all about the new friends they had made, the new things they had tried and what the new environment was like. I try to support and encourage them to continue on their new adventures and I see this experience build their confidence for the next opportunity.
Once I committed, the rush to find gear was chaotic. Luckily for me, my 9-year-old son wears the same size shoes as me so I could borrow his cleats. I also borrowed his shin guards and socks. He was excited for me and helped me dig out all his gear. My own excitement and nerves were building as we counted down the hours to the game.
While getting ready, and being continually encouraged by my son, I realized how the tables had turned. Typically, he would be getting ready for a new activity, feeling unsure, nervous, maybe excited, and I would be encouraging him and helping him feel at ease. He is regularly thrust into fun activities, but ones where he doesn’t necessarily know anyone or exactly what to expect.
So, I showed up. I made some new friends. I played the first soccer game of my life. I wasn’t the best player but I didn’t need to be to have fun! The best feeling in all of it was knowing my family was proud of me. They were supportive and encouraging in a way that was eye-opening for me. I enjoyed the way it felt and I’ve been a better soccer (playing) mom as a result.
Now, I look forward to every Sunday night when I get to play soccer. It was the missing puzzle piece in my life. Even though I relish in the opportunity to leave my mom identity off the pitch, that very identity empowered me in ways I never expected.
As we begin to re-enter society in a post-pandemic world, this lesson is close to my heart and mind. I am eager to join my soccer team again, and my children are eager to resume their activities. Yet we will all be filled with new fears, worries, and anxiety, requiring newfound support and encouragement from those closest to us.