Fans' View

Fans’ view: The soccer dad’s communication breakthrough

Photo: Paul Rudderow

My daughter has been a sports nut since she was a baby.

When she was an infant, she would crane her head to look at the television whenever she heard Harry Kalas. She was destined to be a Phillies fan from day one. (Side note: she’s young enough that she thinks these past two seasons for the Phillies are the “worst ever” for the team. If only she knew…) She loves the Sixers, loves the Flyers, and—since she was about seven or so—loves soccer.

So back in April of 2010, it was sort of a rhetorical question when I asked her if she wanted to go to the first ever Union match down at the Linc.

Something magical happened that day. Immediately, she found a player wearing pink shoes—her favorite color at the time—and decided he was going to be her favorite player. We didn’t know anybody on the team, so having her latch on to this guy named “Le Toux” was as good as any other. Then he went out and scored a hat trick. The stadium was electric, a giant party with 40,000 people. We were both hooked. When I got home that night, I convinced my wife getting season tickets was a necessity in our budget.

Soccer as a conversation gateway

We live in Lower Bucks, about an hour-long drive each way down to PPL Park. We talk a lot during the almost two hours alone in the car. We talk about the Union, her friends, the weather, the Phillies, Flyers, Sixers. We talk about her hopes and dreams, her school work, her music, my music. I learn things: about me, about her, about life as a tween in the 21st century. (Side note: As a parent, “I don’t know” is no longer a valid answer to a question. “Well, take out your phone and Google it!”)

Soccer is a conversation gateway for us.

“Who do you think is going to win tonight?”

(She’s still naïve enough to always say, “The Union.” Even last year’s debacle didn’t crush her optimism.)

“Who scores the goals tonight?”

(It’s always some combination of Le Toux and Jack McInerney, although the prediction of a weekly hat trick is fading fast.)

We talked a lot about Freddy Adu, both as a player and a person. We talked about his situation; she’s 12—not too far removed from when Freddy started his professional career. It resonated with her a bit and helped her to maybe understand the pressure he’s been under (though she was still glad when he left).

And that, right there, is the biggest benefit. We get to talk about life. I use the Union as the springboard, but we talk about a lot of things.

Life lessons in sports

Sports are full of life lessons, if you look around.

Peter Nowak traded your favorite player? Well, sometimes managers make tough choices they think will ultimately make the team better. (Alternatively, sometimes managers are egotistical maniacs who have no plan other than being King of the Hill.)

Your team got a bit full of themselves and gave up a goal in second half stoppage time that turned a win into a draw? You have to finish what you start and give your best effort all the time. Sometimes today’s best effort isn’t as good as yesterday’s, but you still have to give it all.

Your team made the playoffs and has a shot to win it all? People work their whole lives to be the best and only a few get the opportunity to prove it. They have to go out and grab it while it’s sitting there in front of them.

They lost? Just like in sports, it’s OK to get knocked down in life. It happens to everybody. When it does happen, life gives you two choices. You can stay down; you can bemoan the chance you had and lost. Or you can lift yourself back up off the ground, learn from your experience, and go out and try to kick life in the ass.

That’s what I get to talk to her about before and after every game, whether she realizes it or not—always getting up and kicking life in the ass. The Union give me that springboard.


(Note: Apologies to Led Zeppelin for ripping off their song title to make my title of the article.)



  1. Southside Johnny says:

    Savor and treasure these times. The games, matches and car rides shared come to an end far too quickly, but the memories and bonds formed endure. Very nice article. Great read for those who don’t get the value of sports.

  2. very nice John…Hope those rides last a long time!

  3. Great One says:

    Great article, you really make me look forward to having those times myself

  4. Love the new series. My dad and I used soccer as a springboard when he was coaching my youth team. Now that I’m an adult, we have season tickets together and we still use going to matches and talking about the team as a central point of connection in our relationship. I hope for the same with you and your daughter.

  5. Thanks for the warm welcome, everybody. I’m looking forward to sharing more stories over the coming months.

    • Southside Johnny says:

      Please do. I was touchingly reminded of Little League and the Phillies with my son and kinderkickers to college soccer with my daughter. Now it’s the Union and Phillies with both of them. We are lucky to have figured it out.

  6. You mean ‘coming years’! Have had the same experiences with my boys; some of the best hours spent with them!

    • I would love for it to be “coming years” but I figured I’d go in baby steps and get through a few months first.

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