Today, on a sunny Saturday morning in the middle of September, Beth and I became soccer moms. In a way this seems overdue, because we’ve had a child of soccer-eligible age for five years now and we do, after all, live in the suburbs. I promised you a chronicle of suburban lesbian family life, and sometimes it seems like something’s missing here. Shouldn’t I be writing about ferrying the kids to their activities through killer rush hour traffic or agonizing about whether I’m finding the right balance between over scheduling them and failing to enrich them sufficiently so they can get into the colleges of their choice?
Don’t get me wrong. Noah has been in his share of extra curricular activities. Since I started writing two and a half years ago, at various times he’s been in after school science and after school drama and weekend swim lessons and he attends several day camps each summer. He’s just not interested in team sports though, so after a brief stint with t-ball the summer he was five, we have not been involved in any youth sports leagues.
But on the other hand, because it’s June we’re talking about, while our entry into kids’ sports seems overdue, it also seems premature. I used to think it was really funny that the soccer leagues around here start with three-year-old teams. But that was before I had a three year old who loves to run and kick balls and who answered with an enthusiastic “Yes!” when we asked her if she wanted to be on a soccer team with some of her friends from school. So we signed her up.
This morning as I was getting her dressed to go, I suggested to June that she wear her hair in a ponytail. It’s a look I think is cute on her but she almost always rejects it. When I told her soccer players often wear ponytails, she said no, then reconsidered and asked me to pull her hair into one.
“Now you look like a soccer player!” I said.
“Now I look like a soccer team!” she echoed.
We had decided to make June’s first practice a family outing. I expected some grumbling from Noah but he was genuinely enthusiastic about going and wanted to shoot a movie of it. He even took special care to dress in blue because June’s on the navy blue team and he wanted to look the part of the supportive fan.
We got to the field, where a half dozen or so 9 o’clock teams were disbanding and another half dozen 10 o’clock teams were assembling. There are fifteen kids on a team. This means that in a town of 17,000 people, approximately 180 three year olds are playing organized soccer on Saturday mornings. (There are four other time slots for preschoolers on Saturday afternoons and Sundays but some or all of those are teams for four year olds– http://www.takomasoccer.org/index.html). It’s kind of mind-blowing. I suddenly understood why those Takoma Park Soccer t-shirts are so ubiquitous on preschoolers and elementary-age kids. The league goes up to high school, but I rarely see older kids with the shirts. My guess is the serious players are on their school teams by that age. The field was so big and there were so many people on it that it was hard to find out team, but eventually we did. We were pleased to see both the Blue Gingko (aka Praying Mantis) and the Red Gingko. The Blue Gingko ran over to us yelling “June!” as if they were long-lost friends, instead of preschool classmates who last saw each other Wednesday morning.
The practice started. The coach explained they’d be doing stretches and then drills and games, with and without soccer balls. They practiced running across the field toward a goal (a line of parents). They practiced stopping and starting when the coach blew his whistle. They practiced dribbling a ball toward a goal while trying to avoid being tagged by some older kids who were helping out. They practiced kicking the ball between two cones.
June was alternately enthusiastic and unsure. When she was supposed to run away from us and into a crowd of strange kids she didn’t want to go and Beth had to run alongside her to get her going. Finally I decided to join the line of parents on the other side of the field so she could run back and forth between Beth and me and that worked better. Soon she was happily running up and down the field with her ball. Overall, she seemed to be having a pretty good time. Once while they were standing in line waiting to run, I saw June and the Red Gingko leaning in toward each other, deep in conversation.
Meanwhile, Noah shot this movie:
He took all the footage except the introduction, when he’s narrating. Noah was running when he shot a lot of the deleted scenes, so they have a Blair Witch Project feel to them, but Beth found the workable footage and skillfully edited it down to the two and a half minutes you see here. (Noah is currently busy making his own, more extended, director’s cut.)
After a few really strong kicks during the goal-kicking exercise, June came over to me and said, “I’m done now, Mommy.”
“Okay,” I said and picked her up. It had been almost an hour of running around and she was tuckered out. She lay her head on my shoulder. The coach said it was about time to wrap up anyway.
In the car, she said, “It was fun running and kicking the ball fast.” Later, at home, she told me, “The next time we go play soccer I am going to win the soccer and when I’m tired I will stop.” Still later, she told Beth she had already won and demanded a star-shaped glass paperweight she recently unearthed in the basement as a prize. We will have to work with her on this emphasis on winning. At this level, it’s a non-competitive league. I’m not sure if her team will even play another team this season or if it will be all skill-building exercises. Either way, though, I think she’s off to a running start.