Soccer moms learn rules, then learn to love game


By Judith Stiles

There was a deep dark secret with the soccer moms in Lower Manhattan for many years. Namely, they really didn’t understand the rules of soccer, especially that persnickety one, the “offside rule.” Game after game, year after year, the moms would dutifully show up at Pier 40 and cheer the players on, enthusiastically following the general flow of the game. Often without any warning, during just about every soccer match, the referee would suddenly blow the whistle and declare with a few gestures, “OFFSIDE!”

Inevitably a spectator would yell “No way ref, that wasn’t OFFSIDE!” The game would have a momentary pause and then start up with an indirect free kick, and more sideline grumbling over the referee’s determination. Occasionally a brave mother would ask the nearest man to please explain the offside rule, only to find he did not really have a clear explanation either. Yes, he may have provided a snappy analysis along with grand gesticulation, but NOT a clear explanation of the rule.

It was soccer mom, Shannon Carr who first noticed the epidemic of offside rule confusion. Carr, who also coached a coed U-6 (under 6 years old) team, asked the referee to take a moment to explain “offside” to the parents before the game. He obliged, but did so in complicated “ref-speak” much too quickly, leaving the soccer moms more confused.

Then on a sunny Saturday afternoon, Carr took control of the problem and called a special practice at Chelsea Waterside Field, where she could walk soccer fans through the rules of the game. This time, only the mothers took a position on the field, as forwards, midfielders, defenders and goalie. With a ball, in slow motion, they walked through every hypothetical game situation to better understand the rules. Halfway through the session the ball started rolling faster and faster, and pretty soon the moms started passing to each other, even with a little sprint here and there. Eureka! This is what the kids have been talking about! What fun!

Coach Carr was delighted and once again she took charge. She sent out a mass e-mail to the Downtown United Soccer Club soccer moms, inviting them to come play a real game at Pier 40. Thanks to Andrea Preschle of Hudson River Park Trust, Carr secured a weekly time slot for the matches. So every Wednesday night you will find mothers of all ages flocking to the indoor field.

Carr leads the group in skill-building drills for the first half-hour, applying excellent coaching techniques she uses in her day job as athletic director at St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn.

“Every week the soccer gets better. At first the play was too polite, but then it got overly aggressive,” says Jill Stern, a Downtown soccer mom. “This was due to a wide range of skill level, as some moms had never played a team sport before, while others played at the college level.”

Even though the group is diverse, everyone is learning a great deal about the game. No matter how bad the weather is, every Wednesday night, many moms in Lower Manhattan are rushing out the door for their own game, donning shinguards and cleats, and hopefully remembering to leave a few bucks for the kids to order takeout.

And what about the mystery of the offside rule? You can find a lengthy, confusing explanation at FIFA.COM (the Federation Internationale de Football Association’s Web site), or you can just turn to the nearest soccer mom at Pier 40 and she will explain it to you until you really understand it!