Last weekend, I finally made it to one of M’s soccer tournaments. In the household division of labor these days, I’ll often head to a gymnastics meet with J while Cute W will go to a soccer tournament with M. This makes sense: Cute W is the hard-core soccer fan, and his better sense of direction is excellent when navigating from field to field, while I know gymnastics better and can manage the hairdos necessary for a meet. But it means I’ve missed a lot of soccer this year. So I was glad to go.
You know I hate driving, and this tournament was in New Jersey. Driving in New Jersey is worse than driving in Upstate New York. If you haven’t done it yourself, just trust me on this one. I pretty much almost killed us trying to turn into the hotel past some oncoming traffic. So much so that I was having flashbacks in the hotel bed that night.
Also, I knew that all the parents would miss Cute W. He’s just. . . quite a presence among the soccer parents. For one thing, he’ll usually arrange the Saturday night group meal. I shirked this duty because I took advantage of my location to go to my brother-in-law’s surprise birthday party. For another thing, Cute W’s just a goofball. They’re still all talking about an earlier tournament when he got down on all fours in a restaurant to demonstrate “cat” and “cow” poses. Personally, this seems like a totally normal thing to do, but I suppose that that shows that our family is not entirely normal. Incidentally, M found this mortifying. But in our defense, we’re pretty much mortifying just standing still, so we may as well limber up our spines, right?
Cute W is also a Force For Good on the sidelines. Neither of us like it when anyone says anything critical to the girls (some parents seem way too emotionally invested in winning) or the refs (yelling at the refs is pretty counter-productive), but Cute W in particular keeps up constant upbeat chatter. So much so that you might remember that I got him a t-shirt with some of his most frequently-used sayings on it. He’s also well-known for cheering for both teams. At a soccer tournament once, he was chatting with a stranger when the guy asked, “What team are you cheering for?” and Cute W answered, “I’m cheering for good soccer.” That’s absolutely true. It’s excellent role-modeling, but it does occasionally make other parents on our team a little bit nutty. Like when our team makes a terrific shot on goal and the opposing team’s goalie blocks it and he alternates “Great shot!” with “Great job, Keep!” This usually isn’t too much of an issue unless the game is close or we’re losing. Then sometimes people have to move away from him. And people from the other team sometimes move away from him, too, which seems crazy because he’s so even-handed, but the truth is, no matter how even-handed the cheering is, if your team is losing, it can make you a little cranky.
So I did my best. I demonstrated yoga poses at dinnertime and I cheered for the other team occasionally during the games. Still, it’s more fun when we’re both there.
Besides risking our lives while driving, knowing that M found my presence embarrassing, and keenly missing my better half, watching all the soccer was fun. I feel much less tense when watching soccer than I do while watching gymnastics. I don’t know how much of it is the differences in the sports and how much is the kids’ personalities and how much is my blissful ignorance of soccer screw-ups, but it’s true. Watching soccer is easier, by far. For the last two tournaments, the girls has placed as runner-ups and then as champions, so I was a little bummed when the early buzz was that we might just get our butts kicked this time. But it turns out it wasn’t the truth. I’m not sure if it was all a coach mind game or if it was because it was a new tournament for us and we weren’t sure about the competition, but the girls ended up winning every game. In fact, they’d played one of the teams once before in the fall and tied them, and for the tournament game, our Black Watch team won 5-0. So that showed how much they’ve improved in just a few months. Best of all, M scored a goal. She plays in the back, so she doesn’t get a lot of them. This might have been her first tournament goal this season. So, yay.
On Saturday it was super-cold and rainy (which you can’t tell based on this photo), but it was still fun. On Sunday the girls had barely any time between their two games and they were woefully underfed because there was no food available on the tournament grounds and no time to go get any. Meanwhile their opponents had had plenty of time and a nice team meal at Panera ahead of the game. Plus the refs seemed particularly unfair–the girls on both sides were pretty rough, but in the first half our team got fouls called on them 5 or 6 times and the other team had no fouls called on them. But they managed to pull out a win. So, yay. And then we all bundled ourselves into our cars and headed for home.