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It’s not your parents’ sidelines anymore

By Clay Nichols

Courtesy of my three sports-obsessed kids, I recently passed a major parenting milestone: my 50th season as youth sports spectator. How could such a very, very young guy be in his 50th season? Easy. By my way of calculating, this fall alone we will have five seasons—all three kids participating in one team sport, two participating in a second. In the past nine years, I’ve parked myself on soccer sidelines, football fields, basketball bleachers, lacrosse pitches and even dodgeball courts. Over that time, I’ve dribbled mustard on a wardrobe worth of shirts, spilled countless coffees and embarrassed my kids in innumerable ways.

A few key takeaways:


Your folding camp chair is the expression of your Soccer Dad Personal Brand.
Do not scrimp on the folding chair. If you go cheap, you not only undermine your brand, you risk a number of humiliating outcomes including: finger pinching (loud swears), cup holder failure (scalding, loud swears) or complete chair collapse (loud swears, diet resolutions). Fold-out sunshade, pop-up ottoman or built-in speakers and flat screen are fine, but if you want your kids to speak to you post-game, do not accessorize your chair with a flowered beach umbrella.

Cheer like a mother.
In my years on the sidelines, I’ve seen as many purple-faced hollering moms as dads, and they’re just as likely to know who has the most NASCAR Sprint Cup points. But my own unscientific study has found the content of mom hollers to be somewhat different from that of dad hollers. At the risk of gender stereotyping, I assert that moms are more likely to bellow encouragement not only for their own player, but also for their player’s teammates—by name. Moms are also less likely to screech their opinion that they know strategy better than the coach or the rules better than the ref. So I’ve always tried (not always successfully) to cheer like a mom.

Good parents sometimes pray for a loss.
It’s okay if sometimes you hope your kid doesn’t win. Particularly if the finals conflict with family dinner, or take place three hours away, necessitating a hotel stay and marginal food. Secretly hoping for a collapse in the semis is no big deal. But loud cheering for the opposition could necessitate some ticklish explanations.

There are lots of games going on out there.
You are watching a very different game from other parents, even those on your side. A 2-0 final score is either a brilliant offensive performance or a shutout, depending on where your child plays on the field. The game you are watching has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the game the parents of the opposing players are watching—which is why it’s absurd to ever talk to them about what is going on out there. I once sat next to a mom who remained mostly silent. Just after a round of harsh sideline comments about the officiating (see “Cheer like a mother”), she quietly let me know that she was the mom of the ref. I wasn’t watching that game.

My Traverse is not your locker.
Only two things get a permanent spot in the car: the folding chair (see above) and the flowery beach umbrella (also above). Like a lot of dads these days, I’m the Vice President of Transportation and Logistics in our house and that means lots of miles, but it doesn’t mean my little jocks can store their stinky junk in my ride. As soon as the vehicle stops, the lift gate activates and everything must go!

I could pretend that I’m put out at spending most of my free time on a sideline, but the truth is I’d rather watch my 8 year old play soccer than anything professional sports has to offer. (At least I can be reasonably sure no participants will fail a drug test or get caught DWI in the 24 hours after the game.) It’s a great privilege. Hope I get invited to another 50 seasons.


The trademarks mentioned in this story are held by their respective owners.

Clay Nichols is co-founder and editor of DadLabs.com. He can often be found in a high-quality camp chair cheering his face off for his kids: Wilson (13), Riley (10) and Cooper (8).

Chevrolet salutes all the moms and dads out there on their kids’ sidelines. We know the miles you log and the precious cargo you carry. The Traverse can help you safely haul it.

We root for all the Everyday Heroes in all walks of life all over the world. Whether you call it democratic passion or passionate democracy, fandom rules!


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