The Culture of Soccer (Moms)

Watercolor by Maryann Burton

If you haven’t had a chance to stop by the relatively new blog ‘Culture of Soccer‘ by David Keyes, you should find some time to do so. I found my way there thanks to Josh over at ThroughBall and have enjoyed reading David’s in depth posts about a variety of topics related to soccer and culture. David has been involved with soccer since he was a kid and after blogging non-stop during the 2006 World Cup, he’s turned his writing to the many ways soccer and culture intersect. One post that caught my eye was about ‘Soccer Moms in America‘:

The soccer mom’s emergence came about simultaneously with soccer’s rise in the US. Unlike most countries, in which soccer is played across all classes, soccer’s popularity in the 1970s and 80s was adopted by the middle class. Soccer was seen as friendlier than American football, more active than baseball, and had a certain European sophistication that led to its booming in many middle- and upper-middle class suburbs. In addition to the economic homogeneity, these suburbs were also mostly white. Soccer quickly became the rich white kids’ sport.Within these wealthy, white suburbs, soccer became über-organized. In contrast to the pick-up games played across the world, soccer in the US was played in official practices and games. Organizations such as AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization), SAY (Soccer Association for Youth), and USSF (United States Soccer Federation) provided the umbrella under which parents organized the game at the grass roots level. Like a PTA on grass, parents organized their children’s teams. Mothers who did so were often dubbed "soccer moms."

There are many interpretations of the term Soccer Mom and I always get a kick out of the political overtones (thanks CNN!) To me that was always just some term the pollsters made up to sound important.

Many people view ‘Soccer Mom’ as something negative ("You run your kids around to too many activities!") which is unfortunate and the stereotype of the rich suburban woman with 2.5 kids and a minivan is silly. In my experience, at least, Soccer Mom’s are what make youth soccer possible and come in all shapes, sizes, affluence, and yes even gender. Hands down the busiest person involved with a youth soccer team is the Team Manager – usually a Soccer Mom. They handle all the paperwork, snack schedules, end of season parties, team communications, and more. I couldn’t coach my teams without one. But even those who aren’t managing a team will often get involved with team fundraising, helping sell concessions, volunteer at tournaments, etc.

And while the Dads can often fuss at the officials and grumble about how the team is playing, the sidelines wouldn’t be the same without Soccer Moms. I laugh when women are in denial about being Soccer Moms, because it isn’t a bad thing. All sports have ‘team moms’ but Soccer Moms give Youth Soccer a certain flair. It’s tough to describe and most coaches, when asked about the Soccer Mom phenomenon, will stammer and stare at the ground. Because we’ve dealt with plenty of situations in our coaching lifetime, and we’ve all learned one thing: Never cross the Soccer Moms :)

That said, there is a subset of Soccer Mom’s that can generate negativity in people: The Muffia. Sometimes I think that’s what the pollsters and CNN were referring to in the late 90’s. The ironic thing is the Soccer Moms as a whole, LOATHE The Muffia.

Anyway, if you happen to drop by Culture of Soccer, check out the Soccer Tribe post as well. Great Stuff.

Leave a Reply

  1. I’m a second generation soccer mom. I’m team manager for my middle grandson’s team which my son coaches. It’s a busy job, but huge fun. I’m lucky to have a bunch of great parents and great kids.

    My son also refs and I am convinced that the hardest job in youth sports is parent of a ref. You spend your time biting your tongue while screaming soccer moms and snarling soccer dads call your child (and at 37 years old, he’s still my child) everything but a human being. And it’s even worse to watch your 14-year-old grandson try to ref a U6 game. He gave it up.

  2. We’ve found the most problems we have is with U8 matches as parents move from the little kids just kicking around to actual rules :) But I’ve also come down pretty hard on some parents at U8 as has our ref coordinator to try and get parents to understand the boundaries. You don’t talk to the ref EVER. In a smaller league like ours – we’ve been pretty successful. We’ll see if it holds. Refs still get fussed at – but it’s pretty tame. In our travel league – they have no problem booting coaches and or parents who mouth off. it can seem Draconian, but overall things seem more civil and enjoyable. Much less snarling :)