Against my will, I’m a soccer mom. My kids started playing recreational soccer in kindergarten, and by second grade, all three had joined competitive clubs. Now that they’re 12, 13 and 14 years old, I can say that I’ve cheered hundreds of soccer games, driven to thousands of practices, and traveled to dozens of tournaments in five states and two countries. My experience has also allowed me to observe hundreds of soccer parents in the wild. Here’s my handy guide to the kinds of parents you’ll meet on the pitch.
1. The Mother of All Soccer Moms
She drives her kid and three teammates to practice, with her toddler and puppy along for the ride. She organizes the raffle ticket sale, the holiday party, and the tournament hotel reservations. She keeps Insta-Ice, Ace bandages, Gatorade, and granola bars in the back of her Suburban for anyone in need. Oh, and she works part-time as an attorney at a nonprofit for the homeless.
You are not worthy.
2. The Donut Dad
He made a bundle in tech and now “consults” from home. He’s always available to drive the carpool in his luxury SUV. He’s always happy to buy the kids donuts, milkshakes, or burgers after the game. He is beloved by all who can control their jealousy.
3. The Screamer
The Screamer is the most well-known species of soccer parent, but did you know several subspecies exist? Look for…
– The Familial Screamer, intent on bringing his own child to tears
– The Competitive Screamer, who hurls insults at the kids on the opposing squad
– The Official Screamer, who targets the pimply eighth-graders working as linesmen
– The Combative Screamer, who will provoke a fistfight with a grandmother from the opposing side and earn his child a red card before season’s end
4. The Parent Who Wants to Be Coach
Less of a screamer and more of a shouter, the Parent Who Wants to Be Coach sprays a steady stream of unwanted instruction from the sidelines: Pass it! Man on! Shoot! Talk it up out there! Advice offered may or may not be relevant to the actual game. The Parent Who Wants to Be Coach is also known for providing an ongoing critique of the actual coach’s performance to anyone who comes too close.
5. The Coach’s Biggest Fan
This parent always brings the coach a grande Caramel Frappuccino on game days, gifts fine wine at Christmas, and offers insider stock tips year-round. Most importantly, Coach’s Biggest Fan always signs up his or her kid up for $125 an hour private training so that coach has plenty of cash to invest. Guess what, kids? This is how it works in the real world.
6. The Passive-Aggressive Predator
Quiet and stealthy, the Passive Aggressive Predator takes subtle digs at his or her child’s teammates: “Wow, our goalie looked so good last season” (after the opposing team scores), or “It’s a shame the coach isn’t playing your daughter more. Are you going to bother having her try out next year?”
When you encounter the Passive Aggressive Predator, play dead, and the beast will soon go in search of livelier prey.
7. The Ladies Who Bunch
Find the flock of females dressed in team colors, and you’ve found the Ladies Who Bunch. Loud and lively, these moms alternate between cheering the action on field; chatting about fashion, schools, and pet care; and texting persons who may or may not also be at the game. Friendly to all, but often slow to officially admit new members.
8. The Boys Who’ll Be Boys
The Boys Who’ll Be Boys, also known as the DadBros, will hook you up with vodka tonics in summer and Irish Coffee in winter, which helps takes the edge off, no matter what’s happening on the field. Renowned for carting a full bar to out-of-town tournaments and occasionally donning sparkly wigs and neon tutus to stoke team spirit, these boys are good fun. But they should never drive the carpool.
9. The Former High School Athlete
Earnest and enthusiastic, the Former High School Athlete is so excited to be sharing this experience with his or her child. Soon after you meet, he’ll divulge that he nearly played Division I himself, or she’ll casually mention her school’s legendary 1990 state championship bid. This parent is counting on junior to go all the way.
10. The Dogged Devotee
Youth soccer is a religion for the Dogged Devotee. This parent monitors his child’s every practice, never misses a game, and studies the game tape afterward. Oh, and one team isn’t enough for the Dogged Devotee! She commits her kids to every elite soccer program out there, from ODP to EPD, and if you don’t already know what I’m talking about, it’s clear you and the Dogged Devotee will never be besties.
11. The Dazed Disbeliever
How did I end up with such an athletic child? Is she spending too much time on the soccer field? Will I ever truly understand what offsides means?
These are the burning questions that torment the Dazed Disbeliever, my favorite kind of soccer parent—because I am one! We Disbelievers are a small, secretive tribe who enjoy observing the behaviors of parents around us. I confess, after eight years of soccer madness, I don’t always understand the things I see; I, in fact, do not understand offsides, but I have learned one important truth: All soccer parents love their kids.
We just have different ways of showing it.