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By Pamela Steel
Hi. My name is Pamela S. and I am a soccer mom.
My addiction dates back to when I first signed up my three-year-old son in the Huntsville Soccer Club more than a decade ago.
That first year he was most interested in chasing passing butterflies, hugging teammates and the opposing team, and pulling down his soccer socks. His coach, Michael Hill, would pull his socks back up and Nathan would roll them down again moments later. This game went on throughout the spring.
My favourite moment was when Nathan was playing goal. As the opposing team approached the net, slowly and with little focus in terms of direction, the parent fans noticed the goalie was missing. They spied him quickly though, off toward the bush a short distance from the goal, soccer shorts around his ankles, admiring the impressive stream of pee with which he was anointing the trees.
Could a mother be more proud? Or mortified?
The Huntsville Soccer Club is a well-oiled machine. Each year it grows to accommodate more kids and offers them a fun experience while they gain greater skills. The coaches are dedicated parents, many of whom played soccer and have a wealth of talent to share.
However, we live in Port Sydney and decided that we would try out the Utterson Soccer club the following year. This club is less well-oiled. It’s more of a grassroots, ultra relaxed league. Since I have run the club for a number of years, I don’t feel guilty at all when I say it’s a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants kind of organization.
There is one game a week with a short practice beforehand, throughout July and August. Generally between 60 and 90 kids participate ranging in age from 4 to 14. Most of the parents know each other and the park is ideal because younger children can while away their time at the playground directly beside the soccer field in full view of their parents. It’s a social time for all ages.
As for the soccer field: it’s a make-do thing. We make three playing areas on the uneven, often soggy (in areas a little boggy) ground. One is tiny for the four-year-old athletes. They remain my favourites, although my own children are now 10 and 14. Like my kids before them, they chase butterflies, wander off to pee and are fascinated by their socks.
Their coaches, parents of course, spend a lot of their time encouraging them to run in the right direction.
The other two fields are similar sized, about one-fifth the standard playing surface for the age groups competing on them. I often chalk the lines and I cannot draw a straight line to save my life. So, things look a little surreal some of the time.
Our uniforms aren’t nearly as snazzy as the Huntsville clubs’. We provide only a T-shirt with the generous sponsor’s name emblazoned on the front. Shorts and socks are up to the player to provide. In this way we keep the cost of participating as low as possible.
In fact, this year we hope to begin recycling the T-shirts. They are really only worn about eight times and since one of our primary coaches is the Green Party candidate for the area, Matt Richter, we keep an eye out for opportunities to green our club.
The club meets a need. There are very few opportunities for either organized sport or recreation in Port Sydney and Utterson outside of the summer programs run by the town and the Early Years program, that unfortunately closes down for the summer. When we think of 50 families driving in and out of Huntsville every week, it inspires us to make the club work; if only to reduce our carbon footprint.
If you want something local to happen, you have to make it happen yourself. It’s part of the charm of village life and it inspires parents to be fully engaged rather than relying on someone else to create opportunities.
Next to the turkey dinner at the Port Sydney beach, the soccer club is my favourite social event in the village. We have easily 50 families getting together every week for eight weeks and you can feel the social bonds being strengthened through shared participation in the club.
The parent volunteers are marvellous. From the mom who makes the T-shirts to the moms who handle registration and finances – they’re a credit to their stereotype. Soccer moms rule.
Then there are the coaches. Enter soccer dads. We have about an equal number of moms and dads filling these demanding positions – inspiring and encouraging our young athletes.
And of course, we salute our players. From the charming four-year olds who don’t quite have control of all their body parts to the talented 14 year olds, the kids make the whole thing. We have few older players, to be honest. In the younger groups we have about 60 per cent girl players.
Sadly, it seems once puberty hits, the girls’ interest in the club disappears. I hope this is specific to our club, but know it is not. I now make it a habit to get the younger girls to promise me they won’t stop playing soccer when they become teenagers. Keeping girls in sport throughout their teen years is important, but I don’t have any answers to that problem yet.
Many of our better players also tend to gravitate to the Huntsville league where there is more opportunity to play and more competition. We think of ourselves in some ways as a feeder club for Huntsville.
My daughter started with the Utterson club when she was four and last year, at nine, she played for both leagues. This year I’m hoping she’ll go out for their rep team because the girl loves soccer.
And so do I. From the sidelines. I’m the one with the snacks.
And yes, I drive a minivan. It’s de rigueur for a soccer mom.