One of the drawbacks of going to college so far away from home is that the opportunity to see your family or for them to see you play at the collegiate level is almost non-existent.
I am constantly trying to recruit people to my alma mater, Coker College in South Carolina, but many of the athletes I talk to don’t want to go that far from home. I never thought of it that way as we made each eight-hour drive either to or from school a fun event or a road trip so the time passed easily.
The drive was not the thing that bothered me the most. Being away from my family was the toughest part of being nine hours away. As a military family, we all were very close as growing up we would move from town to town, state to state, even country to country, and thus school to school, so the one consistency was the members of my family.
Don’t get me wrong, we fought like cats and dogs, but when we were all together it was tough to leave that behind.
The few times that my family was able to make it down to see me play were some of my most memorable times of my college experience. We came to play in a tournament at Mount St. Mary’s, so not only were they able to watch but hosted some of my teammates during our trip. My middle brother made the trip more than most, but they all made it to at least a game.
My mother and grandparents would show up for Homecoming each year, coincidentally some of the best and most productive games of my career. There was something about playing in front of my family, most notably my mother that incentivized me like no other.
The impact that mothers have on their young athletes is without question. One of my favorite “mom” stories happened when we had taken our young boys to Disney World to play in the GotMilk? National 3v3 soccer tournament in 2001. One of the teams that we were in competition with was called Boca Juniors from southern Florida, who were rocking their Argentina jerseys on the field and were obviously some of the best players at the tournament.
As we all moved in to the playoff round, many of us were watching that team play as we thought they were the “team to beat.”
In a very close contest, one of the best players on the best team we saw there made a pretty big mistake that cost them a goal that turned out to be the losing goal for his team. When the game was over and he completed the obligatory handshake line, this really good 6-year-old soccer player had only one thing on his mind. His coaches were trying to console him and his father came to meet him on the field, but this player flew by all of them and buried his face in to the chest of his mother who stood there with open arms, herself crying in pain watching her son go through this experience.
What a powerful vision — a lasting impression that sticks with me to this day.
Without mothers’ involvement, our youth sports programs would be practically non-existent. For many years, men held the corner on coaching responsibilities, but with the significant growth in girls’ sports more and more women are taking over those roles. As more young women graduate from college having played sport at the collegiate level, even more women will be taking over leadership roles in their respective sport. There are even women taking on traditional male coaching positions at the professional level.
My own mother, besides being one of the best athletes at her school, a multi-sport and multi-year varsity letter winner at her high school in Washington DC, also broke the mold as a coach of a young boys soccer team for Westminster Soccer when she took on that role for my now 42-year-old nephew, long before a woman was even considered for that role.
But in addition to the coaching roles, I never would have survived if I didn’t have some extremely organized and dedicated “soccer moms” that planned all of our trips, got the kids properly carded, reminded me of things I needed to do, organized the communication tree before social media made it instantaneous, and also served as mothers to their own boys and girls who themselves needed mom after the game when things went well and even more so when things didn’t work out so well.
This weekend, many of us will be on the road for soccer, lacrosse, softball, baseball, AAU basketball, track and a number of other recreational activities, none of which would have been possible without mom.
Make sure that we take the time to thank our mothers for their incredible accomplishments and support of our development.
As Abraham Lincoln once wrote, “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
Lord knows I need it.