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Our City: A Mother’s Day Tribute

This Mother’s Day I want to remember everything my mom did to make sure my friends and I had a team and a place to play the game we love so much.

Ireland v United States Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Our City is a weekly column dedicated to the culture surrounding Orlando City, Major League Soccer, and the American soccer landscape.

My mom has seemingly always been around soccer. While my dad was my first soccer coach, my mom took the title of “team mom.” This role, true to my mom’s character, was not one of filling water coolers and cheering politely from the stands. In the earliest days, she was an organizer, an advocate, and an advisor. Eventually, my father’s work took him away from the sidelines and it was expected that another one of the fathers would step up and take over the role. No father ever really did, and my mom became our coach. Safe to say had she not stepped up when she did my brother and I, along with a team full of boys, may have stopped playing the game we were growing to love.

We moved to Orlando in the 1980s and landed with a team that had an established coach. My mom returned to the role of “team mom” and began working with the team’s goalkeepers. When we weren’t driving players home after practice, we were waiting in darkened parking lots long after practice was over for working parents to collect their kids after they got off work. She was as protective as she was supportive of the kids on the team.

We moved clubs eventually, and my mom was able to keep her dual role of “team mom” and goalkeeper coach. We were older now and this team was more competitive. She raised her game as well, making sure the team’s goalkeepers were always in fine form. It was through this team that she also took a larger role in organizing at the club level.

My mom learned the game watching the NASL’s Detroit Express and Atlanta Chiefs, the UCF and Rollins College men’s and women’s teams, the old Orlando Lions, and any other games our soccer-mad family could find to attend. Tactics were a popular family discussion, with salt shakers and ketchup bottles playing the roles of x’s and o’s as we dissected the past weekend’s games. While it was my dad, brother, and I that did most of the talking about soccer, she was constantly learning and observing — experiences that would eventually come in handy when she took on her next challenge on the sideline.

When the coach decided to retire, it was my mom again who took over when there was no one else interested in taking the role. The club paired her with a high school player who had volunteered but, due to his age, could not be a head coach in his own right. So began the odd pairing of my mom and a high school kid as our communal head coaches.

After a rough season moving up age groups, we finished second in the league the next season. The memorable season was celebrated in traditional fashion as her team of mischievous teenagers doused her in a bath of ice cold Gatorade on the sideline. Our trophy was presented to her in a room full of men who had all questioned her ability to coach. We were the highest finishing team from the club that season.

One of her goalkeepers would go on to star for Rollins College and play for a few teams in the A-League, then the top league in the United States.

Despite these accomplishments, she played another role. These were the days before leagues were divided between girls and boys, and many of our teams had a handful of girls on them. While I wasn’t aware enough to ask them at the time, I can only imagine how empowering it must have been to be one of the few girls on a team led by a woman. At least two of the girls that played for my mom went on to be a part of state championship high school teams for Winter Park High School.

With grown sons, she’s hung up the whistle and clipboard. That doesn’t mean she’s ever stopped loving the game or having strong opinions about the game. She’s got her own season tickets at the top of section 31 in Orlando City Stadium. She loves Chris Mueller and will get after any player who dances around a ball to use their preferred foot.

So, for this Mother’s Day I want to salute my mom and thank her for everything she did to keep me playing and loving soccer. She would say she never meant to be a pioneer; she was just stepping up to make sure her sons could continue playing the game they loved. She ended up taking on a leadership role in youth soccer just as youth soccer was starting to gain momentum in the United States.

While she advocated for new and better fields, she also made sure any kid who wanted to play had a place in the team, as well as a ride to and from games and practices. When you add up all the years, seasons, and players my mom impacted, and when you consider all the practices, lessons, and patience she has shown her players, you come to realize she was so much more than the words “team mom” or coach could ever encompass. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, and from me and all your players, thanks for going above and beyond for us!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, especially the ones who have worked hard to make sure we had our chances to play the sport we love!

Do you have a story about your mom who loves soccer?