Sunday, January 5, 2014

Celebrating The Soccer Mom

As published in The County Times ( in May 2009

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Genetics, of course, dictate that kids will share certain characteristics and interests with their parents.  Aside from the genetic hard wiring though, kids also keep a keen eye and an attentive ear on their parents.  They watch how mom and dad interact, pick up on sayings and mannerism (an occasionally unsettling reality for parents when their little 4-year-old tape recorder returns a dead-on delivery of a not-so-attractive phrase that may have slipped out in the heat of the moment) and are attune to parents’ extra curricular interests.  I’m far from a behavioral scientist, but I don’t think it is stretch to say kids have an innate desire to be like and spend time with their parents.  This desire creates a tendency, consciously or not, for kids to take an interest in activities that will create a common bond and will result in more time spent with their mother or father.  When it comes to creating an initial interest in sports, dads traditionally get most of the credit.  For aspiring young athletes, particularly sons, there’s probably nothing more influential than seeing their father competing in a sport.  Through the eyes of a seven-year-old boy, a father walking off a softball field dirty, bloodied and victorious is proof that superheroes do exist.  Following not so far behind that influential visual are evenings spent with dad shooting hoops in the backyard and rooting for the home team either from the living room or from seats at the local ballpark.  That said, fathers unquestionably play a huge role in opening the eyes of their children to the incredibly rich, rewarding and educational experiences of athletics.  Yet, with all due respect, dads tend to get a little too much press.

Without question, the family rhythm has changed over the last generation or two.  As the pace of society has increased, the division of professional and domestic duties between mother and father has blurred out of sheer necessity.  Today, mothers bring home their share of the bacon and fathers do things around the house that leave fathers of prior generations scratching their heads in puzzlement.  Despite the evolvement of the family unit, there’s still a tendency to under-appreciate the role mothers play in dovetailing and sustaining a child’s interest in sports: needless to say, the role goes way beyond the stereotype of the mini-van pilot making obligatory round trips to the weekly soccer games.  First, while it still remains more common for fathers to be the ones involved in and watching sports, the growth of women’s athletics has made it much more likely for mothers to have their own athletic endeavors.  So that aforementioned image of the victorious parent/superhero exiting the field of play is far from being father-exclusive.  This expanded personal role in athletics has neither compromised, nor has it come at the expense of, the more traditional roles mothers fill.  Moms are typically still the ones that ensure uniforms are ship shape, cleats fit and the team fund-raisers are supported.  Beyond these often overlooked essentials, athletics introduce children to an array of experiences - winning and losing, working within a team concept, dealing with personalities of teammates or opponents, or the disappointment of not playing a particular position or not making the team – that create questions and stir emotions from kids that demand wide-ranging skills from parents.  While dads are good at providing lessons or critiquing performance – such as explaining the importance of hitting behind runners on first and second, the intricacies of the zone defense or why laying up on a par five wasn’t the best play – they…or we…aren’t the most intuitive creatures.  Sometimes kids need, at least initially, a big hug or a pat on the back.  Dads may be willing to deliver, but when this is what a kid needs, most still turn to their mothers.  Maybe that’s why even professional athletes, after a scoring a TD or during a post-game interview, always say hi to mom.  So for all the moms out there who have done or are doing the drill of keeping our youth smiling and engaged in sports, thank you and happy Mother’s Day.

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