Forever ago, I was a soccer player. But when I became a parent, I was automatically relegated to spectator. It’s like, they hand you a kid and a pair of pom poms, and you’re forced to watch all the fun from the sidelines.
I’d be rooting for my son Luke as he and a pack of pee wees ambled aimlessly after the soccer ball, when secretly, I wanted to run out on the field and pound that ball into the net.
So, when I heard about a group of moms in the area who still play pick-up games, I immediately wanted in. Mindy Breyer, a Middletown mother to two teen boys, told me to show up at Tab Ramos Sports Center in Aberdeen on Thursday morning wearing a white or black shirt, which would determine my team. Trouble is, my twins are in afternoon preschool, and I only hire daytime sitters for “emergencies” like manicures.
Mindy, who’s been with the group eight years, says they’re a laid-back bunch and children are welcome to watch. Sold. The idea of my kids schlepping with me to watch an activity of mine is infinitely appealing.
I had played tons of soccer as a kid, and even in college. But that was 15 years, 3 kids and a million lifetimes ago. Not knowing what to expect, I buy heavy duty shin guards and arrive at Tab Ramos’ sprawling indoor turf field, fully prepared to get my butt badly beat in front of my four year-olds.
A while back, my husband Den had his own trip down team sport memory lane via flag football with a group of Aberdeen dads. After one game, he pulled a muscle so bad it took a year to heal. He warned me that I wasn’t as young as I used to be, and there could be some injuries.
Nope. Week one I played like Mia Hamm in the ’96 Olympics. It felt so great. I wasn’t even sore.
It was week two when Den got to say, “I told you so.” Five minutes in, my quads gave out, and I could barely crawl off the field, my head hung in embarrassment. On the bright side, my twins, Jack and Nina, showed a level of concern for their Mom I previously didn’t know they were capable of.
My new soccer mates were super nice too. Ranging in age from 35-50, they had all seen or had setbacks like this before. Some, like me, grew up playing the sport. Kim Radvanski, a Matawan mom, was coaching her kids and realized how much she missed it. “I wanted to get back in it for myself,” she tells me. “Children shouldn’t have all the fun!”
Cindy Napoletano was once a wing for Middletown High School, but hadn’t played in twenty years. Neither had Debbie Huber, a former striker from Belford, but she joined the soccer moms five years ago and hasn’t looked back.
“It’s great exercise,” notes Dee Bottone-Rose, also a coach to her Middletown son. “We’re not overly competitive.” Rumson mom Tricia Gizzi agrees, “We work it out so it’s fun.”
Some of the women, like Grace Burke and Frankie Johnson, had never played soccer before stepping foot in Tab Ramos. But they came for the sweat, and keep coming back.
Tina Buffa, a salon owner from Holmdel, fell in love with soccer after seeing her daughter play. “I wish I played as a kid. It’s my true passion.”
Now that my thighs and the rest of my muscles have adapted, I too am loving a weekly workout like no other, and I’m psyched to hang with a group of fit, fun women who don’t settle for spectating. It’s also been good for the twins. Jack and Nina love dribbling down the field, helping me warm up, and they can’t wait to start playing township soccer next fall. Maybe I'll even coach them. I’m still my kids’ number one fan, but it’s also nice to have them root for me.
Plus it can’t hurt for a kid to see their mom kicking butt. Which, every once in a while, I still do.
Soccer Moms pick-up games: Thursday mornings, 9:15 to 10:15, at Tab Ramos Sports Center, Aberdeen, NJ
Contact Mindy Breyer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tab Ramos Sports Center: 17 Blair Road, Aberdeen NJ (732)-290-0003
Other grown-up sports offered: Flag Football, Roller Hockey, Field HockeyCall for league info.
GoodSports USA: 2903 Route 138 East, Wall NJ (732) 681-8898