With three children on soccer teams, Karen Huske estimates that she has spent more than 2000 ours watching games and practices and an equal number of hours washing uniforms.
Another statistic of her soccer mom career is that she has severely compromised the eardrums of hundreds of parents--I know, as I’m one of the shattered-eardrum mom victims who has cringed at the very loud and robust call, “Go, Megan!” as Karen’s daughter charged the goalie and kicked a winning goal. My daughters are on the same team, the “Heartbreakers” -- indoor champions for the fifth year in a row.
In 1999, Huske demonstrated her commitment to soccer in a way few other soccer moms would dare to fantasize, much less try. She learned to attack the opponent’s ball, to block with her face and to perform a ballerina-turned-gorilla drop-tackle move as she prevented balls from passing her 5’9” frame. Huske was the object of attempted murder (as she describes it) when an overly-enthusiastic forward from the opposing team performed target practice on her face.
You see, Huske played goalie on an adult team. Her goal was to have fun and gain more empathy toward her three soccer-playing children, Michael, 15; Megan,12; and Melissa, 8; as Huske participated in soccer from the other side of the foul line. Along with her husband, John Seidl, she joined an adult soccer league on a team of doctors and nurses from Columbia Hospital Family Practice Program in Milwaukee.
Reasoning that medical care was a player away, she knew she’d be in good company if she were injured. Huske registered for the team and agreed to play seven game during the Spring of 1999 at Soccer U.S.A., an indoor field.
Although co-player physician services were un-necessary for Huske’s many injuries, she ingested Motrin every 4-6 hours for the duration of the season, causing glee among pharmaceutical stock-holders. She believes the goalie suffered more injuries than the average player—most required only a jar or two.
Asked why she aspired to the position of goalie, Huske responded matter-of factly, “I hate to run--all it took was one practice and I had enough running for the season, so I headed for the box!”
After a practice or two, it became clear to Huske that many players were fulfilling some unfinished childhood dreams—of becoming Attila the Hun.
At one game, Huske overheard a conversation among a group of women, “I began playing when I was 6,”said one woman. Another replied, “Oh I began when I was three.” Karen piped in “ I started my soccer career at 43!” The late start was no deterrent to Huske, though, as she proved to be the most aggressive of players, diving for the ball and kissing the dirt many times. Her finesse as goalie allowed only five goals for the opposing team during the season finale. This was a significant improvement over the 18 goals that squeaked past her during the first game.
Huske’s husband, John, played defense and fashioned a new position, protector of goalie’s life, strongly intent at intercepting the high fastballs before they smashed his wife’s face. Huske is sure he had visions of all of the housework he’d need to do if she were injured!
Overall, Huske says she “had a learning season of growth. The team finished 0/7 for the season. With this team, it might be more meaningful to list the standings as 0/0, which indicates 0 serious injuries and 0 fatalities,.” she quips.
Asked what differences she noted between kids’ and adults’ soccer games, Huske noted three things; 1. the players use more swear words (daughter Megan said that if her team members said those words like mom’s team did, they’d be kicked out!) 2. players seemed to use the field to act out their life issues on the soccer field (anger, homicidal and suicidal ideation, and unresolved early abuse) and 3. The gear bags were filled with Ben-Gay, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, asthma inhalers, and elastic wraps instead of gator-aid, fruit roll-ups and bubble gum.
Although Huske fell short of her performance goals (She had hoped to be mistaken for Mia Hamm at least once) she reached her true goal of having fun and gaining empathy toward her children as soccer players. Now when she watches a game, she has a broadened perspective of technique, rules and skills. She has a deeper appreciation of playing as a team and the required on-the-spot decision- making.
And now, each time a child is hit with the ball or bumped by an aggressive ball-mover, Huske relives the excruciating pain of her own varied and plentiful injuries. This has yielded louder and more exuberant screams from Huske, annihilating more eardrums than ever before.
Although the team earned no trophies, Huske was rewarded in other ways, most notably by her children’s attention. How did the children react to mom’s debut season? Huske was pleased with the variety and sincerity of their comments. Michael offered tips throughout the season and summed up his appraisal with “Mom, you need work at soccer”. Megan used the tactful and affirming “sandwich technique” for her praise of mom, sandwiching her true opinion between two somewhat positive statements about the team. Melissa’s words were precious and erased the sting of multiple injuries, “Mom, even though you’re really bad at soccer, we still love you!”