For many of us – youth soccer is a way of life. I mean that in the best way possible, though a few parents do lose perspective. If your kids enjoy the sport and work hard at it, you’ll find yourself spending countless hours on the sidelines in heat, wind, rain, and cold, driving to practices and matches, and if the bug bites you too, coaching, managing, or volunteering. But kids don’t stay kids forever, and at some point your little field rat is going to grow up and move out of the house. When that time comes, it can be a drastic change for parents used to the constant hustle and bustle that surround youth soccer in addition to the usual activities of childhood and growing up. I’ve read many a blog post about parents who go to their last youth soccer match, wishing it wasn’t ending, even though they relish the copious amounts of free time they may suddenly have.

However, it can also be a time for looking back and assessing if all those countless hours spent helping your child play the beautiful game were worth it.

Dr. Robert Dotson recently saw his daughter turn 18 this spring and leave the soccer pitch for good. His look back at her childhood and the good and bad a youth soccer career involves is a great read.

We played soccer – and, I use “we” appropriately here, as the entire family was involved in this activity – year around, indoors and out, day and night, in temperatures that extended from below freezing to above 100 degrees. In a challenge to the much-vaunted dedication of the U.S. Postal Service, neither rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night kept us from our play!

On reflecting back over this chapter of our life, it is impossible not to become both nostalgic and philosophic. The sheer busy-ness, the excitement, the fellowship with other soccer families – all will be missed – and, yet, one must honestly ask, what was achieved in these twelve years? The answer to that is less certain, but several observations come to mind.

He goes on to make a number of common observations about youth soccer and I think he has a very well grounded outlook on things. Youth soccer can be expensive, though not more so than many other ‘travel’ variants of things like baseball and basketball. We are seeing many kids ‘shut out’ of youth soccer’s higher echelons due to cost, but many soccer leagues also have scholarship programs available to try and mitigate that problem. However, that doesn’t help kids in urban areas that may not have thriving youth soccer programs.

Definitely read the entire article – it’s well worth the time. His parting words should remind everyone of why we drive the countless miles and endure all sorts of things that many people can’t imagine (you stood in freezing rain for an hour WHY?):

And, so… One door closes, another opens, and life goes on! For our family those beautiful days on the green soccer pitch are now past and, though it is still too early to know for certain, it does appear that there may be life after soccer. New families have already replaced us and they have begun their own journeys along soccer’s path. To all those soccer dads and moms still juggling work, school, and family life to be involved in the sport, a parting word: “Enjoy these days while you can! Your family will never be closer than when it is part of the beautiful game.”

Most definitely. I know I’ll always cherish my family’s time on the pitch years after the last field rat has moved out of the house. Though I’ll welcome being able to open a closet without being hit by ‘That Smell®‘ 🙂

Hat tip: soccerrulestheworld at the NC Soccer Forums.