Guest Post: Melissa of Home on Deranged, on Youth Sports

photo credit: delgrosso via photopin cc
photo credit: delgrosso via photopin cc

Sometimes, you don’t choose your team.

Your team chooses you.

Elise’s first season in youth soccer came and went with much chaos and discord. The coach of the Red Raptors had two kids – younger than 6 – on the roster. She spent more time yelling at them than teaching.

The next year, a mom and I said, ‘what the hell? We got this.’ย So we volunteered.

My life has never been the same. I don’t know whatever happened to Sue, my co-coach, but I’ve been at this crazy gig for 11 years now. That’s roughly the time it takes an East Carolina student to finish undergrad studies.

Today’s guest poster, Melissa Swedoski, writes Home on Deranged. You can guess her take on the gig, too. She’s also a ‘volunteer’ coach. I got all excited when she got the sentence – um, assignment. You know, fresh blood and all.

Welcome Melissa to the CD today. And be sure to check out her blog when you’re done. She does some cool giveaways, swaps the occasional Ask Away Friday questions with friends, and takes on the world of toddlers.

She’s a wonderful writer and a loyal commenter. I’m honored to include her in my family of writers.


Youth sports: it’s like love and other drugs

There’s a lot of big dreamers out there, hoping to be the next great one. Whether it’s hockey, soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, football….damn, we Americans love our sports. Sometimes, we love a little too hard.

And so it begins with youth sports. As our oldest turned 3 in January, we began discussing starting her in some team sports, and soccer, of course, is the first option. It’s always the first option. I’m pretty sure because it’s low to the ground.

Having been a girls soccer referee and coach in my college days, my husband had to rely on me in this choice. He’s from more of a football-baseball-what the heck do girls play, anyway? kind of background.

So we signed up at our local YMCA. I checked the “willing to assistant coach” box, thinking I could handle being second in command. Just requires running a few drills and making the phone calls, right?

photo credit: Sergiu Bacioiu via photopin cc
photo credit: Sergiu Bacioiu via photopin cc

Two plaintive phone calls from the Sports Coordinator later, and I officially became Coach Melissa, head of the Mighty Strikers 4-and-under team. Which is to say, I got my badge to be a cat herder.

First practice: 6 of the 8 showed up. Not bad. One boy had played before. One boy wouldn’t stay on the field. One girl started out shy then became a 90mph chatterbox. One boy sent my husband’s blood pressure skyrocketing. One boy loved his ball and refused to use any other.

Then there was my sweet baby girl. Who thought the whole experience was fun. So long as she didn’t have to do actual drills. Because, why? Then there was her almost 2 year old sister, who refused to leave my side, causing me to carry her around the field.

As we got in the car, my husband turned to me and said, “That went a lot better than I thought it would. I was sure it was going to be a complete disaster.” Um….thanks?

Practices 2 and 3 were the same, and then opening day. We were slated for a double header, with back-t0-back games. Apparently, Mother Nature did not get that memo. It was around 45 degrees, gusty winds and occasional mist. Just the kind of weather that 3 and 4 year olds (don’t) love. We lost one and won one, but it was hard on all.

Two kids quit after that. Not really shocking. Then came the third game last Saturday. Only four were there, but they were excited. It was in the 60s, but still very windy. And the team we played – the Titans – had one little man who I swear has already played professional soccer. He could move to the outside swiftly, and in this age range, that’s a pretty big deal. We lost.

Hard on the kids? Yes. Hard on me? Yes. Hard on the parents? Sort of. Quite frankly, the other team’s kids looked almost as demoralized as ours did, since they didn’t really get to play either. It was a heartbreaking lesson that I’m not sure should be taught at this age.

Winning is addictive. Am I too soft-hearted? Yep. Am I too competitive? Absolutely. But seeing those faces last Saturday showed me, loving the kids a little too hard – that’s always a win. Go Mighty Strikers!

About the Author
After a career as a newspaper reporter and editor, Melissa Swedoski thought she was well informed on the chaos of everyday life. Then she married a man 13 years her junior and later became a SAHM to two toddler girls. Now, sheโ€™s mumbling through the mayhem of marriage and motherhood in a small Texas town, turning her investigative eye on the mishaps and misadventures of parenting and the marathon that is marriage, always with the emphasis on humor and love. You can find her living her big little life at Home on Deranged.


  1. Eli, you have the most talent & depth of any team in any league. Thanks to Melissa for another great guest post. My daughter started youth soccer this spring, and cat herding is spot on. Lots of clueless, daisy-picking, wandering, mostly adorable cats! With an energetic, spastic puppy or two to make things really crazy!

    1. Nicole, I am totally going to steal that description – adorable cats and spastic puppies. That’s a lot like what it feels like. And they listen about as much as the kids do, so it seems doubly appropriate. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    2. It’s an impressive lineup, isn’t it? And Melissa stepped up to the plate.

      I miss the days when the kids’ shin guards went all the way up to their shorts, but there’s a level of patience that comes with it, too. I like to think my patience was galvanized between those mini goals on the U6 field.

      The most important thing is fostering a love for the game. We might not turn her into the next Mia Hamm, but we can definitely make her hate the game. It’s crucial that we don’t.

  2. I so remember that age – my boy – now a sassy 16yo played soccer and was paying attention to everything except the game! Now he’s a 3 sport athlete – football-wrestling-lacrosse and a pretty good student. My girl 11yo is the athlete – has always been a good one loves softballI and basketball. It doesn’t get any easier. As they get older the competitiveness of sports makes it more of a challenge – but the important part is keeping them clued into an organization – sports-scouts-music-community – kids have to be connected and when parents are supportive it makes it more fun! Good luck and enjoy herding cats!

    1. So what you’re saying is, keep doing it, but don’t expect it to get better? Kind of like this whole parenting gig in general, huh? It does make me feel better to know that they stuck with sports. I don’t want them to hate it by the time they are teens.

      1. it just gets different – I coached a couple of times, but it wasn’t for me. Over the years we’ve had wonderful coaches – great people who have stepped up and shared their passion for a sport with my kids. I help when and where I can and haul them to practice and to games – rooting for the team. But it’s more about the life lessons of winning and losing and being part of something beyond yourself that are important. Have a great day.

  3. Kevin coaches Emma soccer team, Melissa and he spends his far share of time carrying around Lily, because she wants to be there on the field as he coaches, too. So, totally get that and then some! but seriously, it is the faces that do very much keep us coming back each week now ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Yep, Thomas (who does help me out a lot at practice) usually has to tote ours around, but she had a massive meltdown at our first game of the season. Poor Thomas, he spent almost the entire time in the car with her, as she promptly passed out!

  4. I can’t believe that children start playing soccer – nearly called it football! – so young in America and I bet it’s fun to watch! I can’t imagine what a field of tiny tots playing a soccer looks like, but I bet it’s cute and I bet it’s pandemonium too!

    Taking part in sports from a young age is great if the child is happy taking part and hopefully it instills a healthy and active lifestyle in them, that stays with them for life.

    1. Deb, It actually is pretty funny, if you don’t get caught up in the winning/losing philosophy, and that is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I was convinced that I would be all “it’s for fun, let them run!” about it, but when our kids started crying because the other team had scored like 5 in a row, I realized something was broken. Gotta work on that!

    2. Last season, before a particularly tense match with a rival, i got to the field early to watch the U5s play. It was so amusing. It reminded me that all these kids started this way, and a love for the game kept them in cleats.

  5. Cat herding is spot on! We’ve been looking through old videos of our sons playing soccer when they were little and that pretty much describes their teams, too! Those little tykes are hilarious to watch!

    1. They really are fun. The dramatic ones really crack me up, as they fall and roll and hang their tongues out, giggling the entire time. it reminds you of the great joy that children bring!

      1. when the big-girl game feels to serious, we’ll play a game in practice like we did when they were little. It reminds us of those roots, and why we play in the first place.

  6. First of all, Hi Melissa on Eli’s blog! This is a nice surprise today.
    I cannot imagine coaching children that young. When I was six…SIX…I cried on the field for my mom. Then I scored a goal for the other soccer team. Go me!

    1. I had a girl who scored her first goal – there was elation at the feat, then instant dread as she realized it was on her own goal. She just put her head on my shoulder and cried.

    2. Why thank you, lovely Tamara! The kids cry. A lot. One of the girls who quit after the first games stood on the field and cried. Just stood there. So I told her just to stay out of the way, since I couldn’t even get her to go to her mom. And last game, one of our boys scored for the other team. He was so excited!

  7. I love the cat herding reference! My youngest is 4 and I’m starting to look into a sport for him to play. He doesn’t seem excited about soccer but he does want to play t-ball.

    1. We really only had the soccer option, because t-ball is only in summer, and we are currently debating on trying that one. Haven’t quite decided, since our kid will be the one playing in the dirt.

  8. Oh, awaiting the beginning of spring soccer for our four and this post was perfection!! Fall was our first try and a debacle: the three year old was fine, the six year old in kindergarten got his rump handed to him on a U8 team of professional 2nd graders and the five year olds? One kept dribbling the ball to the woods so no one could catch him and the other? She was so good people kept looking around for the parent who needed to stop her from scoring again and again! Excited to go check out your blog, Melissa. I think I could use some parent-coach pointers as we head into this season!

      1. Ha! Those four little players are all mine. No actual coaching yet (although I coached field hockey and lacrosse to high school kids for 10 years so it couldn’t be far away.) Too hard now with all four on different teams by age and gender. But I know we appreciate all the other folks who step up to coach. Where would we all be without them?!

    1. Oh, Jen. Where do these professional 8 year olds come from, anyway? The one kid who whupped us all has a 12 year old brother, I was told, and I think he gets “encouraged” at home to be awesome. My husband says we started training about 3 years too late, lol.

      1. Younger siblings of players always have a leg up – they have to fight against big brothers and big sisters for everything from the soccer ball to dinner.

  9. great post melissa. i loved watching my middle daughter run down the field holding hands with friends, as they ran toward the opposing team, oblivious to anything else happening on the field, when she was just 4. i understand, believe me. kudos to you for what you do )

    1. Funny you say that, because at one point, when I could tell that they really didn’t want to play, I held hands with two of them, and the other two joined us, and we just kind of stood there, all holding hands together. And you know what? All four of them showed up for practice this week!

  10. I remember that age. A lot of the kids cried when someone took the ball away. They wandered into other games. Scored in the wrong goal. Coaches for those little ones have the patience of saints! ๐Ÿ™‚ It was fun to watch though (coaches wife)

    1. They cry when the referee blows the whistle to tell them they went out of bounds. They cry when the other team scores. They cry when they fall down. It’s very emotional! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m definitely not a saint, but after hearing the way some parents talk to their kids, I’m glad I agreed to be coach and not leave it to someone a little less patient than myself.

  11. Aw! I love it! When my little one was about that age we signed her up for soccer. It was pretty much just like you described. She was fairly awful at it but she kept telling us she was having fun and she ended up with some friends she still plays with years later. Success!

  12. Great post, Melissa! Another win for you too, Eli! I remember soccer….seems like another lifetime now. My youngest, who is six, is in his second season of flag football and it’s amazing to see that moment when they “get it”. Not the technical stuff, of course, but to see him keep his eye on the ball and then zero in on the dude and run like Forrest Gump to get the flag. I watch the coaches, too and tell you this…I couldn’t do it! Hats off to both of you ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. yep, both my girls are daisy pickers and the youngest is like that dog from “Up” —- it would be much easier if someone could round up all the squirrels, birds, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and not bring their own dogs to the game. Thanks so much. Then she might actually pay attention to soccer.
    I do notice they all come running for the snack though.
    But, we are signed up again this year. Goonies Never Say Die!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. A coach’s worst enemies include dogs and airplanes. If a plane flies by with a banner behind it? Forget about it.

      One kid told me for the end-of-season program that his favorite part of the game was when it ended, because then we could eat snacks.

      Arriba Goonies! You never know when things will click and they’ll go from kids playing soccer to soccer player.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.