Soccer snack shaming

This Saturday, millions of Americans will sit on a grassy field in camp chairs and watch their young children enthusiastically ignore a soccer ball. American Youth Soccer is where families of all backgrounds get to watch their children get their collective arses handed to them by That Other Team that has a child from a Country That Takes Soccer Seriously.

One of the great traditions in American Youth Soccer is the apres-game snack. Like all things in our society today, the snack we bring makes a statement to all of the other parents about what kinds of parents we are pretending to be.

Choosing an appropriate snack is a highly complex calculation involving nut allergies, ratio of SUVs to Minivans on the team, multiple calls to Miss Cleo, and a soul-searching evaluation of how much you hate that mom who wears the triathlon gear LIKE IT’S HER FRICKIN JOB.




To help you navigate this potential minefield of social stigma Nostrikethat Industries has compiled a handy reference guide. Want to make a statement next Saturday?

Read on.

The Traditionalists

Sliced Oranges, the way God intended. It’s a food and a drink all in one, which is evidence of His Perfect Vision. If He had wanted us to have something different, He would not have given us the miracle of the High School Music Booster Fruit Sale.

The Warehouse Clubbers

Pre-sliced apples in the individually wrapped plastic packages and a 2 boxes of Capri-suns. The apple slices are a nod to healthy snacks, and the capri-suns come 4 boxes to a SKU so you can give two away and still have enough for lunches for a while. Alternately, substitute individually-wrapped mini blueberry muffin packages if you’re feeling saucy.

The Stopped On the Way to the Gamers

Big bag or box full of little potato chip bags and a case of Snapple. Look, they were in adjacent aisles and we left the van running in the bag pick up lane because after the morning we’ve had we’re cashing in some karma, okay?

The Trader Joes

Whatever the heck they’re calling granola bars and juice boxes this week (Trader José’s Montezuma Granola?), served from the Trader Joe’s reusable shopping bag because Trader Joe’s is the most amazing grocery store ever and way better than Whole Paycheck although we have to shop there sometimes because I like to buy quinoa in bulk. Trader Joes.

The Enlightened Followers of Food That Is Twice Half

Organic vegan nut-free flax muffins with fair trade coconut water, served on hemp napkins that were lovingly hand-selected on the family’s last eco-tour vacation to Guatemala. Namaste, y’all.

The Sugar Polizei

Hand-sliced carrots and raisins in a snack bag and mini water bottles. I care deeply about my family’s health, and as a result your children will learn a lesson today about politely saying thank you for the carrots. I hope we win today because no one has ever drowned their sorrows in raisins, either.

I heard it through the grapevine that your momma is laaaaame
I heard it through the grapevine that your momma is laaaaame

The Still Three Days to Paydayers

Pink lemonade in a pitcher and sketchy looking grapes. Look, this game is Saturday and we get paid again next Tuesday and I know what I should get but I had to choose between a haircut and new underwear this month so you get what I have in my pantry and the kids are just going to take marshmallows to school on Monday because we won’t have any grapes left but we have to keep up appearances because God help us if someone discovers we’re one of the 80% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck.

The Pixie Stick Partiers

Varies, but tends towards gatorade bottles and mini tins of pringles, occasionally with leftover Halloween candy thrown in if it’s late in the season. The kid who’s parents bring these is automatically the default game MVP, even as his parents themselves get the Stink Eye from every other parent in the tri-county area. Time may heal all wounds, but 210 grams of sugar at 11 AM turns that frown upside down in time for the 11:30 piano lesson.


We are so, so judging you. Choose wisely.



This post is dedicated to my mom friend Roger, who is a total Sugar Police.  Roger I know you’re reading this, love ya babe 😉


I’m coaching puppies

One little boy is a lot like a slinky with caffeine jitters. Two or more little boys is like watching a bizarro-world NASCAR race where all the drivers are drunk and everyone in the stands is completely terrified. Crashes are a foregone conclusion, you just hope you can get there in time with the fire extinguisher.

If we survive, we grow up to say things like “Dude, hold my beer! I want to try that!”

Let’s just say that biologically speaking, it’s a good thing I don’t have a womb.

The Pokey Little Puppy

When I was a little boy my favorite book was The Pokey Little Puppy. As a dad I rediscovered the book thanks in part to my mom (hi mom!) and read it to my kids. One part has always stuck out in my mind.


“What is he doing?” the four little puppies asked one another. And down they went to see, roly-poly, pell-mell, tumble-bumble, till they came to the green grass; and there they stopped short.

I always thought I liked the book because I was always kinda late to everything. I now get why I like this book.

This book is really an owner’s manual for little boys. In fact, this is the essence of little boys: curiosity, and then a blurry bobble of arms and legs and spontaneous collisions.

Also, schemes involving desserts.

My daughter is no less curious or active, but she was in a pink tutu from her second trimester in utero until age 7 (second child, only daughter, lots of ruffle-butt dresses). She has developed a certain grace, comfort, and familiarity with her appendages that her male siblings seem to lack. She can also rip one that will peel the paint off the walls seemingly on command.


The Email

A little over a month ago, I got the email that as a dad I most fear:

Dear Parent(s),

I am writing to inform you that we don’t have enough coaches for our U6 Boys soccer, and so your son cannot be placed on a team. If you want to volunteer to coach, please reply to this email.



I dodged this bullet six years ago when my first son started playing soccer. At the time, though, I was incredibly excited. My good fortune only became apparent later.

In fact, I actually LIKE soccer. I like watching professional soccer more than watching any other sport on TV (although that’s a low bar). I used to play soccer as a kid. I would have played soccer in high school, except the summer after 8th grade this kid Joey gave me a nipple twist at the pool, and when I found out he was trying out for JV soccer I changed my mind and went to band camp instead.

Screw you Joey, I hope you have chronic Irritable Bowel Syndrome and high cholestrol.

My son’s first spring season went okay, and he seemed to like it enough that we signed him up for soccer in the fall. I was a little frustrated with the coaching at the time, and I thought I could do better …so I signed up to coach.

I dove into learning everything I could about coaching youth soccer. For months, I studied videos and read books. Then one day in August he came to me.

“Daddy, I think I want to concentrate on swimming and not do soccer any more.”

“Oh, um, okay. I thought you liked soccer. Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I really like swimming a lot. Soccer is fun, too, though. We can still kick the ball around if you want.”

Good kid that one, throwing me a bone there. “Oh, okay. If you’re sure. We’ll take you out for the fall then.”

“Thanks Daddy!”



That’s how I became a swim dad instead of a soccer dad.

Let me tell you though… So. Much. Better.

As a soccer dad, I was prepared to take on the responsibilities of coaching. That means committing to 2-3 practices a week, plus a good chunk of my weekend for games. I’d have to be out there in the rain, or hot, trying not to just motivate my own kid, but little Tommy the grass picker and Justin-keep-your-body-to-yourself.

There are snack rotations and balls and nets.

There are drills and trophies and patches.

I’m allergic to grass.

As a swim dad, my responsibilities are:

  • Carpool to/from pool on my assigned night
  • 1 weekend a month, sit in a fairly climate-controlled gym or pool and read my Kindle for several hours, while occasionally looking up to see if it’s our event yet
  • Invent things to text to my wife to make it sound like I’m paying more attention at the meet than I actually am
  • Fulfill team’s volunteer hour requirements by yelling at children in an administrative capacity

Overall, way less effort involved in swimming than in soccer. At least for me.

Then, six years later, the bill comes due.

Son assembly required

Son number one is, in too many painfully obvious ways, a shorter, better looking version of me. He also reads this blog. Which reminds me, please excuse me for one second…

Son, go put your laundry away before you scroll down.

What did I just write? Laundry. Now. You don’t have to fold it– just get it out of the basket so your sainted mother can keep the circle of laundry going. Go. We’ll all just sit here, clicking reload, and wait for you to finish.

That’s better, thank you.

Did I just parent via blog post? Yes, yes I did.


Son number two is definitely a very different child than son number one. First, he has the advantage of a September birthday, which means that he’s one of the bigger kids in his grade. Second, he’s a middle child, fairly easy going, and motivated predominately by Cheezits. It’s not so much that he’s a mystery to me, but he definitely has his own playbook and I have to work a little harder to figure out what he wants. This was the child who one morning, at age 2 and a half, we found sitting in the living room, staring at the blank TV, contentedly eating a frozen waffle. He’s slightly suspicious of having me coach the team, because in his experience Daddy likes to have him empty the trash cans, not coach soccer.

Our first practice is at the beginning of April. It’s still cold, the field is damp, and there’s a constant 60 mile an hour wind blowing down from Ottawa that is making me profoundly regret wearing shorts. There are 9 kids, including my own, staring at me suspiciously, as if they are expecting me to start making them do push-ups. I have a clipboard with a lesson plan on it from the league for an age-appropriate practice for 6 year old boys with little to no soccer experience. Glancing down at the notes, I take a quick breath.

WTHeck is this? They want me to do what? I should I have looked more closely at this before this morning. This is lame, the kids are going to hate this. Oh well, here goes nothing…deep breath, big smile…

“Okay soccer players! We’re going to play some games today. Who knows how to play red light green light?”

Inwardly I cringed. And then they cheered.

We played red light green light– first without the ball, then with the ball. They were all so into it, they wanted to play it again, and again, and again. As I watched them lurch forward, fall over, giggle, grin, and fall over again, I was struck by a thought.

Puppies. I’m coaching puppies. Roly-poly, pell-mell, tumble-bumble. Puppies.

This is pretty awesome.

If you are ever having a bad day, do a google image search for puppy pile.


I kinda sorta hope son number 2 eventually decides to go for swimming over soccer. He’s good at it, we’ve got a really good car-pool right now, and it’s ALL about the car pool. If he decides to stick with soccer, though, I think I’m up for it.

I have an instruction manual.

It involves desserts.




Special thanks to son number one for telling me to get off my hiney and write some more.