All I Need to Know I Learned on the Sidelines

Written by Emily

We spend 9:45-12:30 every Saturday in the spring perched on canvas chairs watching two of our little ones play soccer. We get up to change fields and scoop Sylvie up before she dances into the middle of someone else’s game, but for the most part, we’re hunkered down for the duration.

I like it. I get my people-watching fix for the week. Youth sports are a huge anthropological experiment that expose us and everyone around us to our worst and best selves.

Robert Fulghum gained acclaim with his manifesto All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I’d like to see this sequel: All I Really Need to Know I Learned On the Sidelines.


It might include some of these pearls I observed on Saturday:

No one avoids the porta-potty.

We just left the house. Everyone went at least 2 times. Here we are face-to-face with the ominous rectangle. The green slide on the door screams, “Come in! I’m open!”. Everyone who comes out, letting the awkward springy door close behind them thinks the same thing: “I hope no one thinks I did that!”–even the person who did it.

Praise is Magic.

The score was 4-0. While the goalie feverishly tried to wipe away the paths worn on his cheeks by real tears, the muffled sound of hearts breaking was a sad symphony on the sideline. The crushing blow to his face that left him splayed out on the field seemed like the final straw. But then someone yelled, “Great save, Goalie!” Praise is magic–like magic beans magic, but the kind of magic beans that wrap around a person’s insides and make them grow. This goalie rose from the grass and grew five inches. His chest puffed like he’d been inflated. For the next three plays, he was Superman.

There will be nose-picking and vacant stares–everywhere.

On the field. On the sideline. Everywhere.

Desperation isn’t pretty.

From the sidelines, a coach yelled to his defenseman, “Nate, if you want to go to Legoland, you better clear the ball!” Fast forward 15 years, the kid is a college athlete suspended for the rest of the season for accepting gifts. Also, Nate still didn’t clear the ball.

Words Matter.

When the majority of the players watch themselves run, pick flowers if they feel inspired, and just realized there’s a ball involved, words like defense and offense fall on deaf ears. If you tell them to be cheetahs or lions, though, that’s a game changer.  Suddenly, they’re running at light speed after their prey, just not always in the right direction.

The “I have to pee” dance is universal.

While you think you can play it off as some intense juking and jiving on the field, you can’t. Crotch holding and leg crossing? It’s porta-potty time.

Imagination wins.

You can lead the kid to the field, but you can’t make him play…soccer. Because if the spirit moves him to become a ninja warrior and battle his teammates, then that is what he absolutely must do.

You have to pass.

While one skilled kid could take on an entire team practicing their galloping skills and completely uninterested in protecting their goal, the most impressive players pass.

Snacks are the answer.

Nothing is more comforting after a crushing blow of defeat or more rewarding after a major victory than a snack-sized bag of chocolate chip cookies chased with juice from a bag. And nothing says “athlete in training” quite like high fructose corn syrup and sugar. Go Team!

I can’t wait for next Saturday’s games.






Categories: Culture, Emily, Family

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

5 replies

  1. Reblogged this on All But Good Articles and commented:
    Very much useful.

  2. Awesome! Love the list and complete and totally accuracy!

  3. “Praise is magic–like magic beans magic, but the kind of magic beans that wrap around a person’s insides and make them grow.” Gorgeous. I love Saturday mornings, too. Not the porta-potties, though.

  4. Here lies wisdom..and giggles!

  5. “If the spirit moves him to be a ninja warrior…” So true. 🙂

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