Will kids' sports turn me into everything I hate? | Just Jaggin' | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Will kids' sports turn me into everything I hate?

My children just finished their first seasons of soccer. I never played organized soccer as a kid, but it seemed like a good entry-level activity for a 4- and 5-year-old. They wouldn’t need the coordination required to hit a baseball or the millions of dollars it takes to play hockey at any level.

My expectations were to get them out of the house, incorporate some exercise, make some friends, and most of all, “Have fun out there kids.” That was until I realized there is a youth soccer mafia at Cool Springs who draft dream teams of 4-year-old Wayne Rooneys, Zinedine Zidanes, and that girl from Bend It Like Beckham just to make me and my family look like failures!

Both of my children were one of the more competent players on their individual teams. And while that might sound like I’m bragging, I mention that only to emphasize just how outmatched both of their teams were at any given time. We throw and kick at home, but I’m not Earl Woods-ing my kids with non-stop training and “tough love.” At their age, I just want them to be coordinated enough to deflect face-altering projectiles, because looks are life’s real money-maker.

Meanwhile, the opposition at each game might as well have been the 1970 Brazilian national team. The first game was so lopsided, it seemed reasonable to suspect a gambling syndicate had lined my son’s team’s pockets with Sour Patch Kids and slime buckets to throw the game. But as I watched more and more games, I realized that there are actually talented 4- and 5-year-old soccer players. And they were all on other teams.

I started to get weird. As opponents amassed goals like CBS amasses commercials for psoriasis drugs, I transitioned from “just have fun out there” to mumbling about players under my breath, from casually glancing at my phone to cheering (screaming?), “Get the ball!” Hoping my kids had a good time and got some exercise turned into celebrating every time the other team’s unusually fast and nimble 5-year-old girl missed empty-netter opportunities wide. Did I feel good about myself? No. But I didn’t feel bad either.      

You are always going to want to see your kids succeed — in school, at sports, and in life. So maybe my exuberance just reflected how much I want the best for my kids. Maybe I’m just a sucker for the underdog. Alternatively, this could be first step down the long road of sports dad prickdom. I’ll know for sure if I willingly crack a Miller Lite on a riding lawn mower. 

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