Soccer Mom Talks Sports Psychology…in a rambling kind of way.

I’m betting that if you’ve read through my blog you already know that I’m a sports fanatic.  If you didn’t pick up on that little tidbit, let me just set the stage for you.  The other night there was nothing on TV and I couldn’t find a hockey game on any of the channels we get.  So what did I do?  I got on YouTube and searched out a clip from my favorite game ever:  game 3 between the Flyers (my team) and the Penguins (who suck) in last year’s playoffs.  Best.  Game.  Ever.  In the first period alone there were 72 penalty minutes and 6 goals.  Obviously, I watched the game when it was played last year and then I’ve  subjected my family to this particular clip of the huge fight several times but did that stop me from watching it again?  Nope.  And did it stop me from yelling at my computer screen as if it was the first time I’ve seen it?  Nope.  And did I enjoy watching it again even though I knew exactly what was going to happen?  Yup.  That is how much I dig sports.  Now you know.  And knowing is half the battle.

 

So, now that we have that out of the way…yesterday was the first day of spring soccer for my girls.  And I was ready.  I was like freakin’ Spongebob: “I’m ready…I’m ready…I’m ready!”  I have been either the Team Manager/Team Mom or an “Assistant Coach” now for all 5 years the girls have been playing so when I say I’m ready what I mean is that I have the chairs and umbrellas in the car, along with my ‘soccer bag’.  What’s a soccer bag?  Let me tell you:  it has lots of bottled water just in case anyone forgot their own water bottle, extra ponytail holders and headbands, first aid kit, snacks (of course), extra shin guards, extra game socks, extra game shorts, a roster and towels.  When we go to a soccer game we are pretty much ready for armageddon.

 

Kate’s game was first.  Her team had a tough season last fall with some flaky girls from Salem that joined up, with a lot of talent and a lot more attitude, and then quit half way through the season leaving us in the gold bracket with half a team.  Our girls had some huge losses that took all the fun out of the game, not to mention the really bad dynamic with these other girls.  So, coming into spring soccer we weren’t even sure we would have a team left.  But, low and behold, one of the moms did some recruiting and we have a great team full of girls from our own area who just want to play the game.  And they are good at it!  And they don’t have snotty attitudes!  It’s great!  They took the field yesterday morning at 9am and crushed the other team.  They dominated the game play and I think the ending score was 8-0.  To be honest, I lost count.

 

Kate played well all game with really great passes and good touches on the ball.  She’s always played defender until this last season when coach started moving her to midfield and even to forward now and then.  I’ve been telling her for the last few seasons to start taking shots at the goal because she has the power in her leg but she really hasn’t had her eyes on the goal yet.  In the second half she was playing center mid and she was able to get her foot on the ball just at the outside of the goal box.  She sent a low ball just to the right of the keepers knee and into the net for her first ever goal!  It was great!  I, of course, was doing a sideline dance of joy because I was so happy for her.  And then the best thing ever happened: after she celebrated with her teammates, she looked over and pointed at me with a huge smile.  I pointed right back and we both did a thumbs up.  It was awesome that she shared that moment with me, just a bit, in that way.

 

From that game we had to hurry to Abby’s, which was about an hour drive away.  Abby’s team is an age level younger and they actually have enough girls in that age to make 2 teams; one in the gold bracket and one in the silver.  Abby is on the gold bracket team so they have a tougher schedule and this opening game was proof of that.  We had luckily missed the rain for Kate’s game but now we sat in the increasingly wet morning and watched her team battle it out.  That’s another thing I like about soccer:  we don’t call our games.  As long as there is no threat of lightening, the kids play.  We’ve sat through torrential downpours to watch the games.  And my girls actually really like playing in the rain, they think it’s fun.  Go figure.

 

Abby’s team has a lot of talent on it…when these girls get to high school, the majority of them will be playing varsity most, if not all, of their high school career.  Abby is a solid player and once she comes into her speed I think she’ll be first string the whole way.  She has great awareness of the field and positions, something I think she got from playing up on the older team for a year.  And she’s a scrapper, if you take her off the ball she takes it personally and she’s coming to get it back!  I love that about her. But even with all the talent on her team, they got a shellacking.  Their game was almost the same score as Kate’s but not in their favor:  0-7.

 

But here’s the great thing about the whole day:  they were both happy.  Abby celebrated Kate’s goal with her much in the same way that I’ve seen Kate celebrate Abby’s goals.  Kate sympathized with Abby’s loss just like Abby’s done with her.  And then we went home and went on with our day.

 

This sport, with all its ups & downs, has taught the girls a lot.  It’s taught them the value of hard work and pushing yourself, it’s taught them about work ethic, it’s taught them that life isn’t fair and that you can’t control the outcome of things, and it’s taught them that win or lose, it’s just a game.  They love to win but they know what it is to lose as well and they know that after you walk off the field, it’s done.  You take what happened and let it make you a better player but you don’t let it effect the rest of your life.

 

I think any sport will teach you that and that’s why I think sports are so important.  Not just because they are physically healthy but also because they teach kids a certain level of mental health:  In your life you are going to win sometimes and that is awesome but sometimes you are going to lose and you can’t let that end you.  You have to be able to cope with not getting what you want and not being able to control the outcome.  I don’t think enough people know how to cope with defeat or with not being able to just have what they want.  Sports are a great equation for kids to learn: if you work hard and train hard you might win, but then again you might lose, and you have to decide how to make that outcome make you better.  That’s freakin’ life people!  We can plan and train and work for a goal and it just might happen.  But it might not, for any multitude of reasons that we can’t control, and we have to be able to deal with that.  It’s called coping and not many people can do it anymore, unfortunately.

 

And I haven’t even begun to talk about the confidence I think it gives young women…but enough of my armchair psychology.  It’s just a ton o’ fun to watch my girls on the field playing hard and learning new things, mentally and physically, about themselves.  And if they let me share in their wins and defeats from the sidelines, so much the better for me!

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