October 6, 1999

Soccer for dummies
___ Soccer is revenge on baby boomers. It is well documented that our generation burst through the American pipeline manipulating everything in our wake, redefining, controlling, overpowering.
___And now our children are playing soccer--a game we know nothing about. This is painful for a boomer parent to admit, but it’s true.
___It doesn’t mean we can’t yell and cheer and get overworked when our children head the wrong way with the ball. But it does mean that nine out of 10 of us have no understanding of what we’re yelling and cheering for.
___Our 7-year-old boys are playing soccer this fall for only the second time. Somehow, they’ve improved considerably over their first outing, in kindergarten. That year, their team racked up a perfect record of losing every game.
___But while they’re improving, their parents remain locked in the Neanderthal world of understanding baseball and football and basketball, but not soccer. Maybe we need to find a copy of "Soccer for Dummies" and pass it around.
___Of course, some of the sports-savvy dads--the ones who paid attention to hockey before the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup--already have figured out this soccer thing. But the rest of us are struggling to keep up--something males don’t cope with exceptionally well.
___So most of us just yell and cheer louder. It gives the appearance that we know what’s going on.
___I think there’s hope for us, though, because I’ve noticed dads of older kids playing soccer seem to have made peace with the new sport on the block. Either they’ve perfected the art of pretending they know what’s going on or they’ve sat through enough practices and games that they finally adjusted. Hard to guess which.

He Said/She Said is a new regular feature of the Baptist Standard's on-line edition. Mark Wingfield is managing editor of the Standard. Alison Wingfield is a freelance writer. The Wingfields moved to Texas in January from Louisville, Ky., where Mark had been editor of the Western Recorder, in which this column appeared weekly.
___Soccer is still beyond me. One of the boys’ coaches showed me the basic positions on the field and what each one was supposed to do. So I do understand something. But once that ball is in play, forget it.
___I just figure out whose goal is where and cheer when the ball is going in the right direc
We’re discovering a whole new social scene with this soccer business, though. More so than basketball and baseball, the parents seem to band together. As one mother recently commented to me, "This is my social life." And you do get to know a lot about people when you see them at 8 a.m. games on Saturdays. They certainly have seen me looking my worst on said Saturdays.
___With our kids in second grade, we aren’t on that intense level of play where (as I’ve heard from parents of older, more serious soccer players) it’s a cut-throat world. Players scout other teams, jumping ship between seasons to try out for the "select" teams. And the mothers are up on all the teams and who beat who and where their team is in the standings.
___With only four games under our belts, I don’t think I can call myself a true soccer mom. I haven’t even reached amateur status yet. But if the boys decide this is the sport for them, maybe I’ll get it in a couple of years. Or maybe not.
___Admittedly, that competitive spirit infects us all. We tell the boys to have fun and get out there and do their best, but in the middle of the game, I sometimes find myself yelling, "Get the ball!" and other "encouraging" words at rather high decibels. And even though most of us don’t know what our children’s positions are, it doesn’t stop us from calling out advice from the sidelines.
___And that’s the way it is in life. We all need encouragement from the sidelines. Sometimes it’s not the amount of knowledge you have that counts, but just being there and cheering for another person can have a wonderful impact.

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