The First Soccer Tournament of 2011


Saturday morning Jane and I hopped into the car to go to her first soccer tournament with her new team. The park Jane plays at has a big soccer program, about 2,000 kids between 4 and 18 play. Girls under 12 (basically 10-12 year old girls) sends out five full teams in the tournament season. There’s an all star team, there’s a B team, and then there are three more teams. We don’t like to call them C teams, we like to call them “fun teams”.

Jane used to be really good at soccer. Jane used to be the fastest kid on the field. Jane used to score a goal or two each and every game. Jane no longer seems to give a shit. Sometimes she’ll stop twirling her hair long enough to notice the ball whizzing past her, other times she’ll swagger towards the play, but mostly Jane is looking for camaraderie and a bitch session. Jane has discovered boys and music and friends, we are working hard to keep Jane interested in sports.

Those girls shoved us.
That one girl was always off sides and the ref never called it.
Mom did you see? I punched her and the ref didn’t call it. Yes, darling I did see, you made me proud.

Knowing that Jane just doesn’t care much about the game made me even less excited to haul us out to Riverside for a weekend of soccer. There is an adorable downtown in Riverside, and the Mission Inn is there, but of course it was sold out. We stayed at a hotel that was apologetic about their $70 a night rate. They wanted to offer me a lower rate, but it was just impossible.

This is not how I like to travel. I am a difficult woman to please, there is very little chance of a $70 a night hotel pleasing me.

We filled up a cooler with fresh fruits and pre made salads fromTrader Joes and on my way out I grabbed a bottle of Côtes du Rhône which  is absolutely the best cheap wine I’ve ever tasted. After driving for almost two hours (apparently they close down three lanes of a four lane highway to fill potholes) we arrived in Riverside. The area immediately surrounding the park was large lots of dilapidated and abandoned homes, the nicer ones were surrounded by chain link fencing and aggressive looking dogs. I found a fabulous parking spot near the fields, got out of the car, walked around to the trunk and discovered the rotting corpse of a 40 pound dog.

I moved the car, and tried to not consider it an omen.

We got to the fields and I brought a chair, a blanket, some snacks and an umbrella. The skies were ominous.

The girls played like a new team. It’s been flu season and they hadn’t had a scrimmage yet where all the kids were there. They didn’t pass well, they didn’t move together well, they surely didn’t score any points, but they did a decent job of defending the goal. It was 2-0 when the hail started, and the referees called the game after a minute or two of the hail storm. I was bugged that they played for two minutes in the hail, some of the dads were bugged that they didn’t just wait it out.

I am a big sissy. This is not news.

There was a two and half hour break between games and it was freezing so I thought that Jane and I would check into our room and I’d put her in dry clothes for the second game of the day. We drove to our hotel, which was absolutely everything I’d expected it to be, and attempted to check in.

The lady at the desk gave us room keys, we went to the room and it was filthy. The bed linens were piled high on the beds and nothing appeared to have been cleaned. Shivering, we returned to the front desk and explained that the room wasn’t clean, the exasperated clerk told us the computer said it was. A discussion ensued and we settled for blow drying Jane’s shoes in the lobby bathroom.

I should point out that Jane’s shoes are three seasons old. After shaking most of the mud off of the outside of them, I took my blowdryer to the inside and heated them up in a very tiny bathroom. I’m fairly certain that bathroom smells like feet even all these days later.

The second game wasn’t a whole lot better than the first. I think the girls lost 4-0 or something equally awful. They tried their best, but they were up against a team that had clearly played together a long time and it was a group of girls that knew how to foul without getting caught. Three of the girls on Jane’s team went down with injuries from being tripped, pushed or punched, and finally our girls started giving it back. They didn’t score, but they stopped getting beat up. That is good. Right?

After the second game Jane’s lips were blue. I begged her to skip the hotel and drive back to LA, but she wasn’t going for it. I might have said, “What do you want? I’ll buy you anything Kitson sells.” Or I might not have, because only a really crappy really defeated mother would say that, right?

Speaking of crappy mothers….

We went back to the hotel so that Jane could stand in a hot shower for a half hour and warm up. We turned on Netflix and popped open some snacks. As I snuggled my freshly showered daughter I thought this isn’t so bad. As 6pm rolled around I thought I’d like a glass of wine before dinner, so I called the front desk to ask them to send a corkscrew.

ME: Hi I’m in room 329, I’d like a corkscrew please.

CLERK: I would too. Can you believe someone stole it last week?

ME: You have one corkscrew for the entire hotel?

CLERK: And someone just up and stole it. Walked away with it. Can you believe some people?

ME: And you didn’t buy a new one because…..?

And then the conversation devolved into messiness, and I remembered that I was in a $70 a night hotel.

I did what any reasonable mom blogger does, and I sent out a virtual flare on twitter.

Corkscrew tweet Jessica Gottlieb

And my followers (because they are awesome) sent me links to videos where they show you how to open a bottle of wine with a shoe and a wall. Unfortunately I was in the swamplands of California and all I had were two pair of wellies, some stinky cleats and flip flops so I had to try to open the wine without a shoe, but with a washcloth instead.

In an obvious attempt to scar my daughter as I have previously with my son I handed her my iPhone and said, “Record this so Mommy can share it with YouTube”.


Soccer week 4


Girls won, son didn’t play, he was punished. Severely.

Parenting sucks, it’s way easier to overlook this stuff.

My girls team is gelling, they’re hugging each other and passing and hanging out together after practice. Jane played against Bea (one of her teammates from the Spring season) and refused to stop hugging her. Uh, yeah, competitive spirit ladies?

I cannot begin to say how proud I was of Jane and and Bea. Bea rocked the field, she saved every shot on goal and punted it to heaven (gotta teach that kid to aim to a teammate and maybe not so far). Jane was the star of the field. She only had one goal this game (of three) but she had more breakaways than I could count and passed, tricked, changed direction and ball handled like Pele.

Once I coach a kid, they’re mine forever. You gotta try it, it’ll take your breath away.

I Wasn’t Always a Soccer Mom: I Used to Be Soccer Girl


Before the station wagon and the sensible haircut, before the modest clothing and industrial strength brassieres, before nightclubs and proposals there was soccer. Oh, let me clarify, in my childhood there was soccer.

In late August of 1975 my Mother was on the telephone with her friend and said to me, "Bill’s going to coach Jen’s soccer team this year. Would you like to try playing?" I remember the phone call, I remember that my mother was in the kitchen with the phone that had the very long cord. I remember saying yes but I don’t recall being either enthusiastic or excited.

I remember tryouts. I remember coaches with clipboards asking me to dribble the ball between cones and then shoot into the goal. I remember wondering what it meant to dribble a ball and how hard I was supposed to kick it? I remember thinking dribble was a funny word. I remember Bill was there, smiling at me the whole time. Telling me I was doing a great job.

I wasn’t. I was horrible.

There was a draft (yes a draft for five year old girls playing soccer) and there were practices once or twice a week. We had uniforms that we returned at the end of every season (good idea) and a team sponsor that picked up the cost of our sweatshirts.

Every Saturday we came out to play soccer for an hour. Eleven girls on a full sized field, running like crazy for an hour.

We never won a single game that season. Not one.

I did, however, score a goal. Sadly, I was the goalie and in my excitement to kick the ball as high and as far as I possibly could, I gave the ball a mighty toss and kicked my leg up as high in the air as possible. I felt like I was taking flight. I made contact with the ball on the very tip toe of my cleat and the ball soared backwards, over my head and smack dab into my very own goal.

It was a soul crushing moment. I don’t think anyone said anything, the parents on the sidelines were oddly silent. I heard Bill though, he was laughing. So I laughed too, and it was okay.

I continued playing AYSO for many years thereafter. Mostly I was on teams that won more than they lost. The coaches were tough, the practices were long, and many times they were after dark. There were no women coaches; we were the first group of girls who were enjoying the benefits of Title IX. We played hard, we played for an hour and there was always a score. The first and second place teams got trophies and the rest of the teams got to play soccer.

We loved our trophies, they had immense value.

During the summer months there was sand soccer. In the Springtime we busied ourselves with volleyball and impromptu scrimmages. My community lived for soccer.

When High School began I made the soccer team. You had to have a 3.0 average to play CIF soccer at that school. Guess who performed at school? Because sports matter.

As I coach my daughter’s teams, I try to remember the goals I scored on my own teams. The humiliating flubs. I fondly recall Bill’s bassoon laughter filling the fields, and the joy of winning a game in the early morning mist. I remember running laps and laughing that we were smarter than the coach, because he didn’t see us cut the corners. I find myself wistful for the scent of fresh cut grass mixed with cool ocean breezes.

When my girls don’t perform it’s not their failure, it’s mine. Because it means somewhere along the way I didn’t make them love the game. If they aren’t in it to win then I haven’t given them a team. If they are only in it to win then I’ve coached without laughter, integrity and joy.

My girls are winning this year. They are scoring goals left and right, they’re blocking shots that fly perilously close to their faces. My girls are skilled players, it’s good. They’re celebrating together. My girls are becoming a team, and when they come to be each others best friends I am truly a success as a coach.

When you see me jumping up and down on the sidelines screaming like a madwoman and WOOT-ing it up as my goalie makes the save, understand that there is purpose. When I tell the other families to get off the field, it belongs to my girls for the next hour, there is purpose. When I cheer for the other teams’ goalie and I don’t let 9 year old girls drink water until after they’ve thanked the referees, it has purpose. For a few hours each week I have nine girls.

It is my privilege. Thank you for sharing your daughters, excusing my flubs and respecting their childhood. Being soccer mom… where else could I possibly be?

Thanks Bill.

AYSO hates me too


At last night’s board meeting I asked the board why we give trophies to every child.

What happened to a trophy for 1st place, a smaller trophy for second place and medals for third place?

Anyone ever heard the term false praise? The response, of course, was, “You go and tell the 6 year olds that they don’t get trophies.”

Uh, okay. I guess I’d tell them that they’d have the opportunity to earn a trophy too. Cuz, ya know, raising a nation of sissies seems to be on the agenda.