Growing up, sports were a big part of my life. Between my two younger brothers and I, our family weekends were spent in gyms and on fields, in bleachers and on blankets, with teammates and their families, making memories. I formed unlikely friendships, created needless rivals, and had idiosyncratic coaches. The stakes always felt high, and looking back it all feels a little dramatic and silly.
But now that my oldest son has reached third grade, his sports commitments are ramping up, and I've realized that the wildest, most extreme people in youth sports are not found on the field but on the sidelines. Moms crowd the bleachers of my sons’ basketball games and pepper the sidelines during football and lacrosse, becoming caricatures of themselves who magically transform when their child laces up. Each supporting and surviving in their own way — a symbiotic phenomenon like no other.
We see them, we know them, we are them:
the sports moms. The Orange Slicer
Playoff game or pre-season parade, this mom arrives with fresh fruit and granola bars for all. She has an elite collection of coolers, most on wheels for ultimate mobility, loads of energy drinks, and a speedy and aggressive hand-out technique.
While some might discreetly drop their coolers on the sidelines for kids to access at their leisure, this mom waves Gatorade bottles around like a ballpark hotdog salesman. She fuels and hydrates the team, coaches, and many of the younger siblings on a weekly basis, earning her role as an unsung hero each and every season. She is the backbone of any well-oiled team machine and a godsend to any mom who's ever found herself dashing toward the field, kid lagging behind, five minutes late.
This wrangler misses the whole game due to bathroom trips and snack bar runs. She can usually be found pushing a stroller around the edge of the field to soothe a crying baby or under the bleachers fetching her toddlers’ fallen Barbie for the eighth time.
She makes sure to catch the important moments but simply has too many kids to take any of it very seriously. Relatable, messy, and unthreatening, this mom’s chaos is more entertaining than the Super Bowl halftime show.
The Trash Talker
Easily excited and fiercely loyal, you want this mom on your team.
She doesn’t have time for snacks or small talk and often leaves her filter in the car. Her voice echoes as she unabashedly yells phrases like, “he’s got nothin’!” to the opposing team’s all-star. Most likely a former athlete herself, her competitive blood runs deep. She’s aware of her absurdity, often laughing at herself but still unable to reel herself in.
The Team Queen
She is easy to spot donning team colors from head to toe, waving a homemade poster, dollar store pom-poms, or both. You know her full legal name because it is peppered all over the team's Facebook page with updates regarding coordinated spirit-wear and coaches’ gifts.
She cheers loudly for all and is generous with high-fives, but don’t get it twisted — the crown is hers, and she will cut you before she lets you plan a pasta party without her approval.
The Scholarship Seeker
Exhibiting the competitive edge of a boardroom bulldog, this mom leaves no room for the cutesy shit. She has a respect for the game and high expectations for everyone involved. Her cheering usually consists of loud, repetitive directions mixed with celebratory screams for success.
She might seem a little intense to some, but she’s okay with that, understanding that she will have the last laugh on draft night.
The Content Creator
iPhone in hand, this super agile mom bobs and weaves through the crowd to capture the perfect angle of her son’s diving catch. She watches the entire game from behind her screen and isn’t afraid to shove other parents, coaches, and officials out of her way for the perfect shot of little Jimmy in uniform.
Her social media feed is a perfectly curated collection of all her children’s athletic accomplishments, often including video footage with audible high-pitched narration of her child’s every move. And while her focus makes it impossible for her to socialize throughout the season, she is walking away with one hell of a highlight film.
The Score Keeper
No need for a scoreboard view if you are sitting within earshot of this mom. Fingers will fly into the air at a moments’ notice if she overhears someone casually asking the score of the game — extra fast if her child’s team is winning. This walking Wikipedia page of stats is the logical, organized information keeper that every team needs.
The Sports Rebel
This mom doesn’t give a flip about the score, the rules, or the sideline culture. She shows up in her Guns N' Roses tee and oversized sunglasses, sipping her latte alone in the corner as she scrolls through her phone, only looking up for big plays.
You immediately know which player she belongs to, because her child has an effortless coolness that the others do not. Not a real fan of team gatherings or coordinated mom shirts, she keeps mostly to herself, showing support from afar.
The Nail Biter
Take a deep breath before sitting next to this mom, because her energy can be contagious. Her child, often the most prone to injury, causes her to pace the sidelines, grimacing at every whistle blow. Any competitive edge is completely overshadowed by nerves. Her purse fully stocked with emergency medical supplies, she sprints to her child at the end of each game inspecting his entire body for suspected injury. And just when she breathes a sigh of relief, she remembers she has another game this afternoon.
While this lineup may seem overwhelming, the bleachers simply are not complete without each of these valuable players. Each mom feeds off and complements the others, creating the perfect and wildly unbelievable youth sports sideline scene. If you are currently in it, you get it. And if you aren’t quite there yet, buckle up and choose wisely. Your team depends on you.
Samm Burnham Davidson is an ex-lawyer mom of four who swears a lot. She lives in Beverly, Massachusetts and can be found on Instagram @sammbdavidson.