Before my son was even born, I was absolutely determined that I would never, ever be a soccer mum.
I didn't like the idea of early Saturday morning starts (it was the start of the weekend after all, and I didn't want to waste it on a soccer field), and I certainly didn't want to be one of those mums-you know, the kind that lived in my head as a stereotype, ferrying her kids from one Saturday sport to the next and cheering on (or screaming at) her kids from the sidelines.
Well, something very extraordinary happened this year. And I'm not just talking about COVID-19. In this year of pandemic and lockdowns, I became a soccer mum for the very first time. That's right, you heard me. I became a soccer mum. And not just an ordinary soccer mum. No, cheering on from the sidelines was never going to be enough for me. I also volunteered to be the manager of my son's Kindergarten soccer team.
My son started Kindy this year, but he was never (and still isn't) interested in soccer. He only did it because his friends were doing it. So we joined our local soccer club, and suddenly we were thrust into a brave new world and you've got to be particularly brave when you're a soccer mum in Canberra, especially during our frosty cold winter mornings!
I didn't think I would ever enjoy my (albeit brief) time as a soccer mum, but I have to confess that I absolutely did! If you're a parent/carer of a would-be soccer star and you've never ventured into this brave new world before and would like to give it a go next season, then read on for the ten important lessons I learned about being a first time soccer mum.
1.The entry-level club soccer program for young kids is called MiniRoos. MiniRoos Football is for kids aged 4-11 who wish to learn a fun and safe sport. MiniRoos is a nationwide initiative that uses short, game-based sessions to help kids of all abilities learn new skills, become active and make life-long friends. The program uses smaller fields, modified rules and fewer players, increasing the likelihood of an overall positive experience. Local Canberra clubs that have MiniRoos program include Tuggeranong United, Woden Valley Soccer Club, Weston Molonglo Football Club , and Canberra Croatia Football Club. Check out the website of the club nearest you and learn more about their MiniRoos program. You can also go here to find out more about MiniRoos.
2. Get your kids' soccer gear early. And I mean early. In fact, if you're child is definitely doing soccer next season, then get their soccer gear during the school summer holidays or even better, during the post-Christmas sales. Every child in Canberra seems to be doing soccer every year so if you leave your shopping till the last minute (as in, the few weeks before the soccer season begins), you'll never find the right size shorts or the right size boots. Clubs have different requirements; my club provided the shirts but we had to get our own shoes, socks and shorts. Be prepared!
3. Also, be prepared for the early starts. Ok, so 9am really isn't that early. After all, that's when school usually starts, right? And we all get our kids ready before then. But soccer never happens on a weekday morning during term time. It happens on a Saturday morning, and 9am is certainly an early start for a Saturday morning! If you're used to lazing and lolling about on Saturday mornings, then be prepared to stop lazing and lolling about on all Saturday mornings between late February/early March to late September/October!
4. The club relies on volunteers.
Our club certainly did. Parent/carer volunteers acted as coaches and managers for teams; they also ran the MiniRoos program, and every Saturday, volunteers were up bright and early to set up the fields for the day's matches. Thanks to COVID-19, there were no after-match celebration barbecues this year, but they might return next year, which means more parent/carer volunteers helping out. Without volunteers, there would be no MiniRoos program.
5. Be prepared for Canberra's winter weather Winter is brutal in Canberra, and the soccer season runs throughout all of winter. So be sure to rug up in your puffer jackets, heavy coats, scarves, gloves and beanies! And make sure your kids are full of warm layers under their very flimsy soccer shirts and shorts.
6. Your team may decide to have training days during the week. Our team did. As all of the team members went to the same primary school, it was very easy to coordinate after school training sessions during the week. Which we needed as all of the boys in the team had never played club soccer before.
7. Be prepared to cut up all those halftime oranges.
Soccer season means oranges. So sharpen your cutting and slicing skills!
8. There are lots of other extras too. Such as club photoshoot days (it's great to have an official team photo); club merchandise you can purchase from the club such as official club bags and water bottles; club yearbooks; and end of season presentations where the teams get their medals/trophies.
9. There's a minority of soccer parents that don't seem to follow the MiniRoos Code of Behaviour for Parents.
The MiniRoos program actually has a special Code of Behaviour for Parents which clearly sets out the positive and respectful behaviours expected of parents and spectators. Unfortunately, some people act very inappropriately. My son's team played against another team whose parents seemed determined to win at all costs. So their coach blatantly ignored all the handballs and pushing and kicking that their players inflicted on our players, and they even sneakily substituted an older sibling waiting in the sidelines who easily scored a goal for his brother's team! We also played against another team where the dad of one of the players was bellowing at his son to score a goal every time he neared the goal post. Thanks to all the bellowing, his son actually lost his nerve and concentration and never scored at all, no matter how close he got. I've also heard the story of a dad coach approaching parents on the sidelines and trying to recruit all the top players from various teams so that he could create his own super team for next season!
Fortunately, the majority of us don't act like these very bad examples and living stereotypes of soccer parents. Just be aware that unfortunately, they do exist!
10. Finally, on a more positive note, by joining your local club, you feel part of your community.
For me, this was probably the best thing about being a first time soccer mum/manager this year. I truly felt as though I was part of my local community. Also, since all of the members of my son's soccer team went to the same school, I really got to know well all of their parents/carers and siblings. I felt a real school and community spirit!
So will we return to soccer next year? Will I return to being a soccer mum?
Well, my son declared that he will only do soccer next season if the barbecues are back. He's looking forward to the free sausage sandwiches much more than the actual games!
As for me, if he does join a soccer team again next year, I won't volunteer for team manager this time. Next season, I'm aiming to join the club board or club management team. So those parents who think kicking and pushing and substituting older brothers into an Under 6 soccer match is the way to go, watch out. I'll have my eyes on you!