Sideline Politics

The Ball - Sideline Politics of Soccer

My kids are active in the local traveling soccer club. I attend no less than 50 games in the summer season. I used to call it my social hour. The time I got to spend with fellow adults and enjoy the summer weather. Oh. And watch my kids games too.

However, over the past several years, I noticed the parents were becoming more and more annoying to me. Maybe it was the way they thought their kid was going to be the next Pele. Perhaps it was because parents started yelling at the refs and then started to taunt the players on the field. Or maybe it was the way they glorified my ex-husband who has been the coach for two of my kids since they could play soccer. Whatever it was, I was becoming less and less happy with being on the sidelines of my kids games.


Then it hit me.

I felt like I was back in high school.

The sidelines were becoming cliquey. They were becoming popularity contests. If you had money, status and the looks, you were in the cool group. There were the queen bee and wanna bees all over again. It was literally like walking into the high school cafeteria. Who was worthy to sit at the cool table (midfield line) and who was allowed to make decisions for the group (team bonding activities, out of town tournaments)?

I was never popular in high school. I had friends in all type of groups. I didn’t like to conform and I still don’t. Of course, this doesn’t make it easy for people to figure me out. I am the nerdy, techie, overweight soccer mom. Where can they categorize me. How ever shall I be labeled? It probably doesn’t help that I am the ex-wife of the coach that everyone adores.


They just don’t talk to me. There is this unspeakable agreement between us. The agreement goes something like this: We have no idea how to work with what you offer Sarah. So instead, we are going to ignore you and pretend you don’t exist. It is just easier that way. Unless, of course, we need something from you, then we totally will acknowledge you.

I could be offended by this. I could whine and cry about how incredibly high schoolish it is. In honest, I really don’t care. I am not there to be around them. I am there to watch my kids play the sports they love. I am there to support my kids in being good losers and humble winners. I am there to promote teamwork and respecting authority.

The best way I know how to “fight” the sideline politics is to be true to myself. I am who I am. I respect everyone and try not to exclude people unless they are rude and disrespectful to me. I think we all need to be wary that our kids are watching us. They learn from our example either good or bad. So next time you are on a sideline watching your kids play a sport, be watchful on how you interact with the parents on your kid’s team. We aren’t in high school anymore. It is time to change the sidelines and it begins with us.

Sarah Heil-Brenny

Sarah Heil-Brenny is a single divorced mom of three teenage boys who lives in a suburb of the Twin Cities. Pack leader of two dogs with a combined weight of 9 pounds. She is often found knitting in inappropriate places, watching way too much Netflix, posting too many pictures on Instagram, and munching on anything gummy. Sarah pretends she is an extrovert but she is a closeted introvert who adores spending an obscene amount of time by herself and a few awesome friends. She is an adolescent psychotherapist who has a private practice. Photojournalism was a passion that turned into a business but really it’s because she can fly her drone. She does this all the while going to school for her PhD in Social Work. Someday she hopes she can just sit, relax and not stress about her yarn stash. Until then, she lives her chaotic life. Welcome to it.

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