I need help. Desperately. I am suffering from a bad case of delusional parent disorder (DPD). I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the world of 9U soccer and my son’s place in it. I can’t go on this way.
My son’s first love is soccer. He’s pretty good at it. He should be. He has a ball at his feet all the time. He’s turned the path between the family, living and dining rooms into his own soccer field. He’s been in a program with the absolute best coach I’ve ever seen for three years. They didn’t play games for the first two, just focused on development with lots of touches. I watched my son become a creative, technical soccer player. It was fantastic.
This year the games started as did my problem. My son is the most advanced player on his team. He’s team captain. He’s scored all the goals for his team. I know scoring goals doesn’t mean you’re the best, but he’s the focus of the offense, it runs through him. While he’s got a knack for putting the ball in the back of the net, he’s not the most aggressive kid. Sometimes he plays a little soft and lets himself get pushed around, not exactly the traits of the next Messi.
My issues started when the coach mentioned he asked another player, not my kid, to play with the 11U team. I was stunned. I have a hard time processing it. I’m still hurt. I’ve developed an anxiety around it. I don’t want to go watch practice anymore. I am even contemplating having him tryout for other programs come the spring though, as I mentioned, he’s got the best coach I’ve ever seen in any sport. It’s probably worth mentioning my son isn’t bothered by it at all.
It gets worse. Now he wants to play goalie. Goalie?!? Doesn’t he understand there’s only one goalie and lots of other players? Even if it doesn’t work out as a striker (did I mention he’s scored all the goals?) he can always play midfield or, worst case, defense. Can’t he see his best path is at any position other than goalie?
Look I get it. I understand if he’s not aggressive against kids his own age, he’s going to get devoured against older kids. I understand he’s not going to develop much when he’s going to play less and get fewer touches. I know he is playing exactly where he should be playing. There is nothing to be gained from “playing up.” I also fully recognize if he wants to play goalie then he should. He’ll enjoy it and he is more likely to put in the necessary work and see soccer through to its logical conclusion for him at whatever level that might be. I really do know he’s not going to be a pro soccer player. Really. I do. He’s nine-years-old. Who the heck knows what’s going to happen? Rationally, I get all that. But we’re talking about my son, and there’s nothing rational about DPD.
I write all this because as a coach, my case of DPD is a reminder of what even my best parents go through. It’s a kick-in-the-rear-end reminder of needing to put myself in their shoes and remember they’re scared, they’re anxious, they’re protective, they don’t know what to do and everything they say and do is because they have Bobby’s best interests at heart even if their words and actions suggest the exact opposite. It’s a reminder although they see exactly the same things I do on the field, those things tell them a different story than the one I know to be true. It’s a reminder even the ones who “get it” will be irrational at some point. Much as I hate it, suffering from DPD as a soccer dad will make me a better baseball coach.
PostScript: In between writing and posting, I spoke with his coach who told me pretty much everything I laid out above. He took the time to tell me all the areas my son is doing great in, how much he loves having him on the team and reminded me there is no rush. We both agreed the aggressiveness will come or it won’t, but if it does . . . He handled it perfectly, as I knew he would because he’s also taken the time to establish a good relationship with me as a parent in the program. I sleep better at night now. First because the boy is fine and happy (he even got to play a game at goalie), and second because I have a blueprint for the next discussion I have to have with a parent suffering from a case of DPD.