Now is the time of year when watching kids' outdoor sports becomes most uncomfortable. Seattle's greatest test of parental fan resolve is the Seattle Youth Soccer Association City Tournament, which starts on Monday, Dec. 2, and continues until Dec. 21.
Every year, Seattle’s recreational youth soccer players, ages 10 to 18, have a tournament that lasts three weeks and takes place all over Seattle and Shoreline. Kids play in all sorts of weather, often in the evening, under lights. It’s a double-elimination tournament, so each team stays in until it loses two games. NCAA basketball has March Madness. The Seattle Youth Soccer Association has December Delirium. If your child is caught up in this, or in something similar, here are some tips to get through the sleet-soaked evenings:
1. It is colder than you think. I know, it’s dark and forbidding, and you wouldn’t dream of going out without a coat, hat and gloves, but you need more than that — say, two layers of sweaters underneath. And a down vest. Long underwear. Two layers of socks. Rain pants. Hand warmers. Scarves. And a blanket on top of that. Keep layering up and move as you can. Balaclava? Why not? The kids are fine with one warm layer, but you’ll probably still be freezing at the end.
2. You have no idea how long the team is going to stay in the tournament. You think after the regular season you have a pretty good notion about where your kid’s team stands in the league, but something about the city tournament can reshuffle kids’ athletic hierarchies. Teams with losing records suddenly gain confidence and start winning game after game, playing complete havoc with their families’ schedules. Teams that dominated through the regular season can go down in a penalty kick shootout after three games. Avoid committing to things for a few weeks. December isn't big social month for you, is it?
3. A lot of games end in penalty-kick shootouts. Here is what happens. After regular play ends with a tied score, each team takes turns to have their best players take kicks on the other team’s goal. This is particularly hard if your kid is the losing team’s goal keeper. Being a keeper involves a lot of pressure in regular game situations, but a penalty kick ending to a game eliminating your team from the tournament is a lot for a kid to handle.
4. Meal planning is a challenge, particularly if you have two or more kids in two or more tournament teams. The slow cooker is your friend. So is the timed cooking function on your oven. So is the teriyaki place around the corner. Or instant noodles. When it comes to feeding your family in limited time, the way to assure success is to lower your standards.
5. You may find yourself thinking the unthinkable. In the fullest divisions, the path to the championship can be eight games long. You’ll enjoy a good chunk of it. Sometimes you will feel your heart swell with pride as you watch how well the players on your kids’ team work together. But somewhere around game five you’ll be on the bleachers with rain blowing in your face, watching your kid whiff another pass, and it’ll occur to you that if your child’s team lost, you’d be free to spend your evenings relaxing indoors, where you can feel your toes. You might even start to root against your child’s team. Don’t be too ashamed. Other parents are feeling it too. It’s called perspective, and it’ll be gone by game 7.
6. The signs are true. Around the fields, particularly on championship days, the Seattle Youth Soccer Association puts up signs in green and blue block capitals reading “Please remember while watching your child play: these are kids, this is a game, the coaches are volunteers, the referees are human, this is not the World Cup.” Wise words, and worth living by. Have a great tournament!
Fiona Cohen's son, a senior, is in his very last City Tournament. She prefers raincoats and rain pants to umbrellas. They are warmer, and less susceptible to random weather destruction.