Some speculation from the sidelines

By: Tricia Caspers
-A +A

Most Saturdays this time of year you’ll find me on the soccer pitch — well, not on the pitch, exactly, more like the sidelines. Though, the way I wriggle my feet in the grass in an effort to help magically pass the ball, you’d think I was playing center forward.

I’m actually watching my son’s team dribble down the field, and I’m trying really hard not to screech my head off because the coach has asked politely that we (I?) please, please not do that.

All of that tongue biting has given me an opportunity to think about vulnerability.

Two of my children have played soccer, and because neither of them is a big fan of running — it’s possible they take after me — I suggested they play goalkeeper.

So much less running!

They both refused, adamantly, but for different reasons. My son doesn’t want to play goalie because he’s seen a player take a ball to the face.

Who knew a nose could bleed that much?

My daughter, on the other hand, couldn’t stand to let a ball whizz by her. No matter how much my husband and I tried to explain that the goalie is a last resort (at least at the youth level), she loathed the feeling of letting down her teammates.

It occurred to me last Saturday that the goalie — so often waiting alone in the sweet grass — is not only physically vulnerable, but emotionally vulnerable as well. It must take a special kind of person to put him or herself in that double whammy of vulnerability on a regular basis.

Playing a cooperative sport and a musical instrument are two of the requirements for being my child. It’s good for them!

My daughter tried several sports but never found one that stuck. My son continues to return to soccer each fall, though he’s built more like a linebacker and would probably prefer to ride a horse.

I never played a cooperative sport myself, unless you count the kickball games where my best move was: kick, miss, and watch as my stinky sneaker soared through the air.

I didn’t play sports because it didn’t occur to me in elementary school, and by the time it did occur to me, I didn’t want everyone else to see that I didn’t know how to play.

I wouldn’t let myself be vulnerable.

So I have demanded something of my children that I did not demand of myself. After all, being on a team, performing in front of an audience, even raising a hand in class — those all require some measure of vulnerability, right?

Even now, I would love to learn to sing, but I tell myself I don’t have the time or the money, and that’s true, but I also dread the idea of tormenting an expert with my squall.

I really only allow myself to be vulnerable here, on the page, perhaps because I’ve been practicing this ink and paper thing for nearly 40 years.

Is it fair to my son that I regularly attempt to push him into a place of vulnerability that I am not willing to go?

Maybe not.

But it’s good for him!

Does that mean it would also be good for me?

Tricia Caspers is an award-winning writer. She may be reached at