Last fall I had the great pleasure of helping coach my son’s baseball team. It was something new to me. I didn’t grow-up with baseball and there is no professional or significant college team in my town. That said, I grew in appreciation of
the baseball: The sound of the crack of the bat when a player got a good hit, the strategy, the feel of a ball when you catch it in your glove. There is a real beauty in the sport.
Practice was in a local park that had a couple of baseball fields but also had a soccer field that we drove past to get to the baseball diamond. After about two months of passing the same people on our way to practice, I made an observation: Soccer practice had a lot of moms. There were at least four lady coaches and sometimes no men at all. This was in stark contract to our baseball practices. Yeah, moms were there, but they were behind the fence, cheering on their sons or gossiping, sometimes looking after younger kids. On the baseball field were half a dozen men along with their sons, teaching the fundamentals of the game.
The early 1990’s popularized the term “soccer mom”. At the same time, baseball popularity declined. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was some sort of relation between the two and single-parent households.
With baseball, it is almost always the dads who go out in the yard to play catch, strengthening the bond between father and son. Men coach, rarely women do. Plus the strategy and rules are significantly more complicated in baseball than soccer. It seems that baseball needs dads. The sport was built for them.
Does soccer attract moms and kids where dad is out of the picture? No dad to toss around the ball with? You can kick the soccer ball around the yard by yourself. Barely paying rent on
mom’s income? Soccer equipment is significantly cheaper. Not too competent at sports? It doesn’t take much experience to tell a kid to kick a ball. How to throw a curve ball, now that is a different story.
Compare the fields. Soccer is an open field with parents on lawn chairs right along the sideline. It is almost leisurely, relaxed. Baseball, the neophytes are separated by a fence, the iconostasis of the sports world. Through it is where dads teach their sons to be men.
I’m sure soccer is a perfectly fine sport. Most of the world plays it, but in America, it just seems that soccer has a strong affinity with moms entering the sphere of dad, often because dad is not there.