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!”

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  • KoP Soccer Dad

    I’ve had at least 1 child in travel soccer for the past 7 years, with the last 2 years having 3 playing at the same time. Much if not all what’s in this article is true, at least from a parent’s perspective. As I see it, the game itself isn’t flawed nor is the concept, it’s the parents who are the ones that ruin it. And that’s the shame of it. I have spent countless hours in the car with one of my children while my wife is off in another direction for a game with another child someplace else. The things that we talk and laugh about are priceless. Sure, it seems like I have to put my life on hold for those weekends spent traveling to far and distant lands, but when push comes to shove, I’m not really missing much anyway.
    So in the end, let your children be the guide to the level of travel soccer insanity you want to get into. Most kids will be just fine in whatever environment they are placed in so chances are, your local club that’s right around the corner will do just fine.

  • Meg

    I was a little disappointed she caved in at the end. I’m all for making your kid happy but not at the expense of my own happiness and sanity. Life is too rushed as it is.

  • Karen

    A soccer mom friend told me I had to check out this article, as it was really funny. ..I gotta say..while you may call me a “CRAZY soccer mom” , or giggle at how i volunteer for everything at the soccer field..if given the chance to do it all over again..i wouldn’t change a thing.

    Through travel soccer over the past 3 years, I’ve watch both my kids make friends that i think will be their forever friends. I’ve watched their school district network of friends increase five fold (making the transition to middle school less scary), I’ve watched them get better at soccer and gain confidence! I’ve watched them interpret some tough life lessons (like why didn’t i get to play, or why didn’t xx make the A team?). And i’ve watched them smile. They will look back at these years and remember how fun it was and how busy they truly were..even when they aren’t division 1 soccer players. The night everyone ran through the sprinklers and got soaking wet there were puddles in the car and cleats that smelled horrendous..yes those are the memories…And i gotta believe when they look back on their childhood when they are mothers- they will ask “how/why did you juggle it all”..and I’ll smile and say “it was worth it to see you smile..and it was fun..find a great carpool network!”

    But this article missed it..because selfishly, I’ve also made a ton of friends, some that I consider my closest at this stage in my life- the ones that i turn to to discuss the emotions and crazy times at our house…the ones i lean on for support and advice on how to handle situations…the ones that make me laugh hysterically as we discuss the smell of soccer cleats and how to organize the team lunch between games..yes- I think the world of travel soccer is a little intense, perhaps totally unorganized at times but I also think it’s a ton of fun. I also think listening to the over the top parents on the sidelines and studying their behavior is better than most reality tv shows.

    So with that..yes, my kids have learned a ton and their soccer skills have improved signifcantly over the past 3 years..but I also look forward to taking the carpool loop this time..driving 3 giggling girls over an hour away on sunday and listening to them laugh so hard in the car they might pee themselves, then watching them pass to each other on the field and high five after they score goals. Truly that’s what travel soccer is all about!

  • Stein

    The problem with travel Soccer is
    Play an American sport.

    • CharlieFuchs

      yeah!! MURICA!!! YEAAAA!!!! go back to your home country!!! MURRRRICAAAA!!!!! BEER!!!! REEEEAL FOOTBALL!!! WHITES!!!

  • Dan

    This applies to travel hockey also!

  • Stephani

    Cracky up after reading this! We are all shoved in a hotel room 5 states away for a soccer tournament, i like to call it “Family Bonding”

  • Cameron

    Great thoughts and a great article. However, I think she misses a big part of the equation: Those crazy travel parents are also involved in the “Easy Soccer” league – they are called “Crazy Easy Soccer” parents. It’s okay not to choose travel soccer for many of the reasons listed, but you may as well choose against soccer (or pick any youth sport or activity). If anything, I have found that the crazy travel parents are slightly more educated about what’s going on than the crazy easy soccer parents.

  • Sal Gruttadauria

    The article completely misses the point. That travel soccer is a detriment to learning the game. It teaches them one thing only, how to compete. They have the whole lives to learn that (ex: your job). They should he focused on learning technical skills and applying them at games.

  • CharlieFuchs

    White whine. This article is such a waste of time. This comment is even more of a waste of time. Are you still reading it? WHY???