A year ago today, my son played his final soccer game. It was the culmination of years of taking him to practices and games, and it was hard to see it all end. Quite frankly, it had been such a big part of my life that I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle it all ending. It was a significant life change.
This fall, I attended 37 soccer games (so far), including all but one of the local Illinois Wesleyan men’s team. It became an enjoyable substitution, and I found myself living and dying with their successes and failures. It’s not the same as watching my own son play (although one of the players was my son’s teammate all through club and high school), but at least it kept me engaged with the sport.
I wrote the following essay, ‘Reflections and a Thank You ‘ a year ago, the day after my son’s final game. It was therapeutic in a way, and a tribute to him. But it also contains a message that I hope parents of young soccer players will learn to embrace, and that is to appreciate the moment, and not get hung up on wins and losses at an early age. Look at your child’s personal development, both as a soccer player and a functioning member of society, and let he or she be the focal point of what’s good about the great sport of soccer. At a young age, individual skill development is so much more important than the outcome of a tournament match you won’t even recall five years from now. Unless your Little League trophies are still proudly displayed in your house (I sure hope not) instead of stored in a box in the attic or basement like mine (actually, I think most are likely in a landfill now), it should be easy to understand what I’m saying. We all want our children to experience the “thrill of victory” at some point during their formative years, but looking back, I’m more content at knowing my kids enjoyed their athletic experiences without dealing with self-esteem issues because their parents put too much emphasis on winning.
The road is a long one, yet we travel it way too quickly. Continue Reading