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Who Was I Really Parenting For During that Soccer Game?

The reason why trips to the playground or sitting on the sidelines supporting your child’s sports team, or other extra-curricular activity, can be stressful is because we often feel that all eyes are on us. Rightly or wrongly, we are thinking that our parenting skills are being reflected in our child’s behavior and/or performance.

This is human nature. It takes work to ignore a feeling of ‘all eyes are on me’ and to instead laser-focus on parenting for your child and your child only. Certain behaviors are expected in certain situations and following your own instincts, finding your authentic parenting voice and style can be hard when outside of the home.

Last weekend, while sitting on the sidelines at my six year old son’s soccer game I found myself focusing on ‘all eyes on me’ instead of laser-focusing on Donovan. This soccer season Donovan has lost his confidence on the field during games. He is afraid that he is going to get hurt (can’t blame him, it can be rough out there even at the six-year old level). He is also worried that he is going to kick the ball the wrong way. He is pretty tough on himself, he likes to feel competent. He is not feeling that this season.

Watching him during game time has been fascinating because I almost don’t recognize him, he has gone from someone who loves to kick the ball to someone who is literally watching the ball as the other team scores a goal. I am not kidding when I say that every goal scored by the other team last weekend, and the weekend before, could have been stopped by my son if he had only gone towards the ball.

So it has been strange after three seasons on the same team to see this change. His behavior tells me that something is wrong, I know that there is an unmet need that we need to work on getting to the bottom of. I know that this will rebuild his confidence and allow him to feel comfortable getting more stuck-in.

And yet, knowing all of that I found myself shouting on the sidelines; “Donovan, get that ball, that is your ball, GET THAT BALL!”

At half-time he let me know that this was not helping him. I asked him what would help and he said “Just cheer for me Mom.”

In that moment I realized; Yep, he is right, I have been shouting for the benefit of the other parents on the sidelines. In that moment, when yet another goal was scored, and our undefeated team was starting to be defeated for the first time, I felt that ‘all eyes were on me’. In that moment I took my laser focus off parenting for my child and my child only.

I felt that my coaching from the sidelines was letting everyone else know; Yes, don’t worry I see that he is letting the ball go in the goal and I am working on changing that. The outcome being counter-productive because now he wasn’t feeling that I was supporting him in the best way.

So I let him know that I heard him, that from now on I was going to bring a pair of pom poms with me as a reminder to simply cheer on the team and Donovan. He doesn’t need my sideline coaching. He could use some additional skills practice during the week to get more comfortable blocking and defending, but sideline coaching, not so much.

So my new set of pom poms are my reminder that if I feel that ‘all eyes are on me,’ I need to pivot and laser-focus on my child and my child only. Determining what does my child really need in this moment.

Go team!