This past month has been a whirlwind for me. My 11-year-old daughter is on a travel soccer team, and now has also been selected to play for her middle school team. The additional responsibility means that her already congested soccer schedule has more than doubled, which makes life even crazier for me, taking her to practices, games and tournaments. Not that I’m complaining, because I love it and she thoroughly enjoys playing.
To give you an idea of a typical week, she has 2 games per week for her school team in addition to 3 training sessions. Then for her travel team, she has practices 3 nights a week, sometimes 4. On weekends, she plays — on average — 2 games for her travel team. But sometimes that has risen to 3 or 4 games if she has a tournament.
In all, she’s participating in 6 training sessions and playing 4 competitive games per week.
For me, life as a soccer dad means that I’m almost literally eating, living and breathing soccer. At this time of the season, it’s very rare that there’s one day when she’s not playing or practicing soccer, which makes the task of watching the best soccer on television a difficult challenge at times.
Being a soccer dad, it opens up my perspective to a completely different world when it comes to soccer. During this season, I’ve spent more time with the other soccer moms and dads on the team than I have with my wife’s family or my parents. The soccer moms and dads are all good, hard-working people who sacrifice a lot in their lives to put their children first. But the fascinating thing to me is that even though they eat, live and breathe soccer, none of them are connected to the soccer that’s being shown on TV screens every day of the week.
Take for example this past weekend where the travel team competed in Gainesville, Florida for a 3-day tournament over President’s Day weekend. The soccer players and families all stayed in the same holiday together. In the lobby on Sunday as we were all preparing to get ready for the morning game, I was torn because I wanted to watch the Arsenal-Leicester and Manchester City-Tottenham games live.
As we settled in the lobby to eat breakfast, I switched on the TV to watch the first 10 minutes of the Arsenal-Leicester game. As I was glued to the TV set, none of the parents watched or paid any attention to it. There were however a couple of parents from another team who walked over and started to watch the frenetic opening. But for the the 11 kids on our team, their siblings and their parents, there was zero interest.
We had bigger concerns that morning, as we were focusing on a championship game to be played. But I’m confident that even if we were playing a friendly game, it wouldn’t have mattered. The level of interest in the game that was being shown on TV would not have changed. Soccer on TV, for the most of them, is another world.
The reality is that even if soccer moms and dads are consumed by the sport, the vast majority of them have little to no interest in the professional game except when it’s a major tournament or there’s a local professional team near them. There’s a better chance that the kids would be more cognizant of who’s playing on TV and they might be the ones watching the games later.
But just because there are hundreds of thousands of teams playing soccer across the United States every weekend, it doesn’t mean that soccer as we know it is growing by leaps and bounds. There is an opportunity for the parents to become more interested in watching soccer on TV, but there’s no guarantee.
The reality is that the vast majority of soccer moms and dads are living in a ‘travel soccer bubble.’ We should not confuse a passion for seeing their child play soccer with a great interest in the professional sport. From my experiences with this travel club, and two other ones before this one, there is very little to no crossover between the two. Suffice to say, we should not confuse massive numbers of kids playing soccer with a growing interest in the professional game. What’s good for the growing number of soccer players in this country doesn’t produce immediate gains in TV viewing numbers.
It may have an impact in later life when the kids are in college or “retire” from playing, but right now, that’s far off in the distant future.
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