Travel Soccer Is Every Parent’s Nightmare

Faraway games, sacrificed weekends, agressive parents—there's not too much good to say about travel soccer. So why are we schlepping our kids all over creation to play it?

On August 6th, what would have been the day of Blair’s first travel soccer practice, two soccer parents text me: “Does Blair need a ride tonight?” She’s still on the roster, since we only decided to take her off the day before.

The buzz in my throat starts again. Maybe it’s destined to flare no matter what we decide for our kids. Maybe the one true constant of parenthood is always, always worrying that you’re screwing it up.

Or maybe I’m just nuts.

Just then, I remember something a friend told me months ago when I asked her what I should do about travel soccer. At the time, I dismissed it as one of those gaggy mottoes parents tend to write on Facebook in order to prove they aren’t as inept as the rest of us, which we know isn’t true, but we totally block them anyway. She said, “You have to love them where they are.”

She’s right.

She is.

It’s just so hard to do that. It’s so hard to see the now without focusing on the later—the complaining siblings who have to come to all the games, the college scholarship she’ll need, the corner office someday. We forget that none of that is actually real. Not yet. And we almost miss what is: Blair has a soccer practice tonight, and a kind parent is offering to give her a ride.

I spend the whole hour she’s at the field hoping she hates it. I hope really, really hard that it’s awful. And muddy. And that her coach is mean. That she sweats too much, since this particular girly-girl doesn’t like to sweat. When I hear Blair’s cleats clomp through the front door, I shout from the kitchen: “How was it?”

“Awesome,” Blair squeals. Truly. She squeals. “We scrimmaged. I made the only goal!”

“You did?”

“I did!”

And this, right here, is where we are. Our eight-year-old daughter is playing travel soccer.

“Wahoo, kiddo!” I say. “Way to go!”