Friday, May 30, 2008

Beach on soccer

Life flows at a different cadence for consumed soccer parents

I had not cleared the parking lot on my way to a soccer field somewhere in central Jersey last Saturday at about 8:15 a.m., when I heard that familiar cry: “Man on!”
This is the sound of soccerhood, which is my term for being a soccer parent. It takes over parenthood, you see, when you’ve got two kids playing for premier teams.
“Man on!” had nothing to do with me and my arrival. “Man on,” sometimes shortened to just “Man!,” is the warning teammates give to each other, telling the player with the ball that an opponent is closing in and they should pass it.
Girls’ soccer teams use it as much as boys’ teams do. You don’t expect these tough female competitors to say, “Girl on” or even “Woman on,” do you?
Anyway, I had dropped off my elder daughter at the field and she was warming up with her team, preparing for the 9 a.m. game of this weekend tournament. The “Man on!” cries were coming from the players in the earlier games at the complex of fields where we had gathered.
My wife and other daughter could not be with me on this Memorial Day weekend. They were in Lagrangeville, N.Y., some place upstate, at, of course, another soccer tournament.
I was carrying the day’s New York Post and Daily News. I usually don’t buy them, but I couldn’t resist when I saw their front pages at the gift shop of my hotel in East Brunswick. The Post headline: “She Said What?” The Daily News: “Hil’s Killer Gaffe.”
Yes, I was getting my morning fix of the latest Democratic presidential primary fiasco: Sen. Hillary Clinton had said she was staying in the race because, hey, you never know, Sen. Barack Obama might get shot, just as Sen. Robert Kennedy got shot in June, 1968.
I paraphrase, but that’s the gist.
“Sick, disgusting and yet revealing,” said Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin in his lead.
I nodded to the other soccer parents with my daughter’s team as they shuffled by, grasping their coffee cups and blinking into the morning sun.
We had been joined by a new contingent: dozens of college soccer coaches, carrying folding chairs and clipboards. They had come there, from as far away as Florida and Michigan, to watch our girls play and decide whether to recruit them, perhaps offering scholarships.
Now you begin to understand what this is all about.
My daughter had a bit of an obstacle to overcome with the college coaches because she was playing with a large leg brace, the result of surgery last year after she tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during a soccer practice.
Maybe you saw the recent cover story of the New York Times Magazine, entitled “Hurt Girls.” It was about the epidemic of ACL injuries among teenage girls who play soccer year-round. For various physical reasons, female athletes rupture their ACLs five times more often than males.
I had read that article while waiting around at, you guessed it, a soccer practice. It noted soccer parents become “bewildered by the culture.” One of the dads said, “We had no idea what we were getting into.”
“Man on!”
One of the benefits of all this travel is that you get to explore interesting places between games. Last weekend my daughter and I visited the town of Princeton and discovered it has an intimate local movie theater that reminded us of New Haven’s York Square Cinemas. (The York is gone now; even the marquee had been demolished.)
We were excited to see the Garden Theater was showing “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” We had hoped to see it at the Citerion Cinemas in New Haven because, after all, part of the movie was filmed a couple of blocks away. But soccer had intruded.
My daughter likes Harrison Ford and it sure would’ve been great to see him making a movie last June in our town. But we were out of state, in Maine, at, you guessed it, a soccer tournament.
One of her friends had said the new Indy movie was “stupendously awful, but enjoyable.” When we emerged from the theater, we agreed it was a perfect review.
Man on!
Randall Beach can be reached at or 789-5766.

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