My wife and I have been avid soccer fans since the day our oldest son joined a bambini team at age four. We started with watching our son’s games and tournaments. We enjoyed the camaraderie among the parents, meeting new friends and weekends of healthy sport.
Things have changed though. Our oldest son left the sport at around the age of six and a half and began taking karate. He has been a competitive karateka ever since, and has his brown belt with twelve. He is now a member of the junior national team and an amazing success.
It all changed when our youngest son started soccer. It was at the same time as the oldest went into karate. The thing was, our youngest son seemed to be a natural soccer player from the beginning. A real talent. Like his older brother, he started very early, at four. He has since changed teams, been scouted and is currently playing for a professional team in their junior performance center. All this is happening in Germany mind you. A country where being good at soccer means, you are good at soccer! This means the tournaments are no longer the local fare, but regional, national and often international. His team has played against French teams, British teams and even teams from the USA. As a parent it is easy to be bulldozed by all this. The team bus, the press and the excitement. The question is, is this healthy? The competition between the parents is incredible. The pressure on the children is more so. Kids at this level are expected to perform, if not they will get kicked off the team. We started with this team two years ago. From the original 13-14 players only 4 are left. We have an attrition rate of over %60 per year! Also, my wife and I began watching the big games on the TV. We wanted to better understand the game. We needed to see what the pros do and how they do it. I have even read a couple of books to better understand the rules and tactics.
This season my sons team is playing against teams that are two years older and the pressure is really on to compete. Today we had a game and lost. We lost bad. I realized the discussions between the parents have become more critical of each-other and the camaraderie has fizzled slowly into the morning mist. While watching another team play, I was shocked as a fist fight broke out between a father and the coach of the other team. This was not our team or parents mind you. But I hope that this is not a sign of things to come.
On the way home from the game my wife and I analysed the game and discussed it in detail. When we got home we went into the kitchen and discussed it even further. It was then that it hit me; all we talk about is soccer. We are at a game or training at least four to five days a week, sometimes more.
Today I begin to wonder. Is this a hobby, an obsession or simply a healthy approach to an exciting sport? I am certainly hopeful that it is the latter.
What do you think?