Ah, the first time your kid puts on that adorable mini soccer kit. (In case you're a true newbie, that's the uniform.) Joining his or her first sports team isn't just a rite of passage for your kid -- it's also one for you. Youth sports is no joke, people, and you'll encounter all sorts of parents, weird rules, and volunteer opportunities you weren't expecting. Consider this a crash course in the etiquette rules all sports moms and dads need to know.
1. Seriously, learn the rules of the game.
For the beginning portion of my son's first soccer "season," I would gasp when it appeared as though he was headed toward the wrong goal. Then my husband filled me in on the fact that they switch sides after halftime. What gives? There I was, a nervous wreck ready to throw myself onto the field to distract everyone from the mistake I assumed my kid was making, and he had it right all along. Lesson learned: Brush up on the basics ahead of time.
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2. If you don't sign up to bring a snack, you'll get judged.
The weekly offering of post-game snack is just one of those things each family has to suck it up and volunteer to bring. Could you skate by one season without delivering a cooler full of drink boxes and individual bags of cheddar Goldfish crackers? Sure, but you may get the stink eye from the team parent who probably had to double up on weeks to provide extra sustenance.
3. That said, don't go overboard on snacks.
At least, don't work harder to impress the other parents with your snack supply. Chances are the more grown-up-friendly it is, the less likely the kids are to eat it. Some pretzels and orange slices will suffice. Sure, there will be one kid looking for a cold-pressed juice, but he's his parents' problem.
4. Let the coach do his or her thing.
Trust me when I say no pro team is scouting your 5-year-old's soccer game, and these coaches are typically volunteers who give up their weekends and even weekdays for practices so your kid can have fun and get some exercise. Don't pick a fight about how long your kid gets to play or how many corner kicks he doesn't get to kick. Usually when the children are young, the coach has to let everyone play an equal amount, but frankly, he's probably too overwhelmed and busy to tally the minutes or throw-ins or kicks for every kid. He's trying his best. Don't be that parent.
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5. Never underestimate the power of a car air freshener.
Okay, so the post-game and practice odor issue gets way worse when little athletes grow up, but your child is about to get back into your car way dirtier than you ever imagined. So pick up something fresh-smelling the next time you hit up the car wash as a precaution.
6. Sorry, but your weekend mornings aren't for brunch or for relaxing on the couch anymore.
So you have a regular family-friendly brunch spot that your whole fam loves? You won't be back until soccer season is over. In fact, your Saturday and/or Sunday mornings are essentially obsolete for three months. Might I suggest grabbing bagels and making friends with other parents of kids on the team? This is your new brunch crew for the immediate future.
7. Encourage your kid to have fun -- whatever that means for him or her.
Whether he ends up chasing butterflies on the field instead of trying to score a goal or she is a prodigal defender, keep things light on game and practice days. This is supposed to be fun, remember? All that really matters is your child is getting some exercise and maybe, just maybe, learning the benefits of being part of a team. And that's enough of a reason to drag a cooler of juice to the park at 9 a.m. on a chilly Saturday. Or at least that's what I keep telling myself.
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