Joy Fawcett, Ultimate Soccer Mom, talks to LiveMom about sports, coaching and family
Joy Fawcett, a 2009 inductee to the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame, three-time Olympian, two-time World Cup soccer star and mom to three girls, was in Austin last weekend to search for the “Ultimate Soccer Mom” at the Austin United Soccer Club’s Capital Cup Tournament. While she was in town, LiveMom had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about kids and sports, juggling career and family, positive coaching and promoting a healthy lifestyle for your family. You can read more about her background in our previous post.
LiveMom: How and when did you start playing soccer? Did you ever play other sports?
Joy: I started soccer when I was 5. I have 8 brothers and sisters and they all played, so I just kind of followed along. I loved it from the beginning. I also ran track as well — as a kid, and then in high school. I really loved soccer — took to it.
LiveMom: What do you think kids get out of playing sports?
Joy: You can learn a lot of life lessons in sports: about teamwork, relationships, character and discipline. There are a lot of life lessons, and I think a lot of parents whose kids are in sports lose sight of that. They just want to win, get their kid to the next level, but there are so many things they can be teaching them, like respecting their opponent, teammates and coaches.
LiveMom: Do girls get anything different out of sports than boys?
Joy: Yes. For girls it’s about relationships, their interaction with teammates. It’s also a huge confidence builder for girls.
The relationships are the biggest thing which I think parents lose sight of. They want to move kids to the better team and move them every year, and I think coaches lose sight of that, trying to build great teams by cutting players. That was the best thing I got out of playing — the relationships.
LiveMom: What do you feel is the best way to begin introducing sports to your kid/s?
Joy: I think for young kids, going out with them yourself. That’s the easiest way to do it. You don’t have to go far. Just go to a park, grab a ball; whether it’s soccer, baseball…and play with them. It’s good for both of you. It’s a great way to interact with your kids.
LiveMom: When do you think kids should begin playing organized sports?
Joy: I just think it depends on what kind of organization it is and how it’s handled. Is it a positive environment? Are the coaches making it fun? It should be fun, especially at a young age. I think the biggest thing for parents is not getting frustrated when kids are not engaging all that much. You’ll have your kid playing and they might be picking daisies and you are frustrated they aren’t paying attention. As long as they enjoy it and want to go to practice and the games.
LiveMom: What was it like raising a family while playing internationally?
Joy: It was fun. It was hard at times, definitely. A lot of hard work. And tiring, because you don’t sleep at night when you have kids and you have to play and perform and be mentally ready. I would never do it differently. I enjoyed having my kids with me all the time.
LiveMom: What was valuable about that experience for your children?
Joy: They learned to be flexible. It kind of developed confidence in them — they they knew how to travel, they knew how to interact with a lot of different people and situations. They were exposed to a lot of different things, foods and cultures that they would never experience otherwise. With my first one, I would come home and I got worried. People would have their kids very scheduled and I thought “Gosh! Am I destroying my child?” She would just fall asleep anywhere: in an airport, on a bag, in a bus, or wherever. And then I realized that she is very flexible. My kids can handle a lot of distraction and adversity, so that was good.
LiveMom: What do you think helped you balance the demands of having children while playing soccer at a high level?
Joy: My husband was huge — he was very flexible. I couldn’t have done it without him. It was hard on him because I would take the kids with me and he wouldn’t see them. So eventually he quit his job and he came. I would take someone with me to watch them during practice, so eventually he became that person. He decided to come and do it all, which was great.
My teammates were also very helpful.
LiveMom: Did you ever consider putting off having kids until after your soccer career was over?
Joy: No, I always wanted to have kids. I wanted to be able to keep up with them. So I just asked the coach. I said I want to do this, and I’m going to bring them with me. Is that all right? And he said, “Sure. Why not?” So we just did it. I really never thought twice that I shouldn’t. My major concern was making sure they didn’t distract my teammates and we tried to do everything to make sure that didn’t happen.
LiveMom: How would you define positive coaching?
Joy: Praising effort and really teaching them the game instead of coaching them out of fear or intimidation. The thing I like about the Positive Coaching Alliance is that they give you tools to change or to work with. They don’t just say “Hey, be positive. Go do it.” Coaches and parents are competitive. Give them each a tool to work with: things to remember, how to interact with your kid and how to handle certain situations.
LiveMom: What led you and your husband to start the Saddleback United Soccer Club?
Joy: Really, it was my oldest. She was 11 and was ready to get a little better coaching and we just didn’t know where to send her. We didn’t want her to have that pressure. She would have done fine under it, but I didn’t want her to feel like a professional when she was only 11. So we found some people and started it up.
It’s been great. And most of the kids that come have had bad experiences elsewhere.
LiveMom: What’s the different between coaching boys and girls?
Joy: Boys don’t take things personally. They are more likely to let things go. Girls will fester, harp on it, analyze it.
A lot of the good players I’ve worked with that are quiet are afraid to say things to their teammates on the field and it’s hard for them. They don’t want to hurt feelings. Girls need to get over that and to learn to be competitive. It took me a while to learn that I can play hard in practice and not hurt my teammates’ feelings. Girls need to understand you can battle in practice and still be friends. And you are only helping each other if you do, by making each other better.
LiveMom: How do you suggest dealing with that one parent who is bringing negative energy to the team?
Joy: As an organization, me or my husband will step in, or the team manager will go and talk to them. And we’ve had to do it. We’ll say, “You can’t do that. You’ve got to let the coach coach, because you are confusing your kid out there.” Sometimes we’ll say, “Sorry, your kid can’t play.” We’ll do anything we can to avoid that, though. We’ve even started fining parents, because it isn’t fair to the kids.
That’s what I like about our club. Parents are signing on with that intent and they have to know there is a certain silent protocol they need to follow. It’s funny, when we play other teams, the parents will notice the other sidelines. They are like, “Wow.” They are starting to see the difference, which is good.
It’s not about being competitive. We still want them to be competitive. It’s just a better environment to do it in.
LiveMom: What advice do you have for moms about keeping active after having kids?
Joy: It gets harder to be active after you have kids, but there are ways to incorporate it. When you take your kid early because they have to warm up for a game, it’s a great opportunity to grab some moms on the team and go walk or run, since you have that extra half hour or hour and you are just standing there. I’ll do that with my friends.
If you are at the park, and you have little little ones, you can do weights and push ups at the park. Cuties will put a video on their website that will show what I do.
Or, just interact with your kids. Take them out with a ball and run around with them. Even if you don’t know the game, your kids will be happy to tell you how to do it and show you all the moves they are learning.
LiveMom: What tips do you have for parents trying to promote a healthy and active lifestyle to their children?
Joy: They will get outside if you go out there. Your house can wait, your laundry can wait. Just go out and play with them. Handball, whatever it is. Even if it’s for 15 minutes.
The thing I like about Cuties is that it’s a good healthy snack. My kids love them. It’s on the counter. When they are doing their homework, it’s something they can just grab. When they are out, kids will eat them. And they are easy to throw in their bags. Kids love to eat them on the way home from practice, at games. No mess. Throw them in their lunch. You don’t have to cut them like oranges. They are easy to hand out at halftime and after games. They are sweet, so they get that sweet too.
LiveMom: How would you describe the Ultimate Soccer Mom?
Joy: Enthusiastic moms that are positive on the sidelines. Cuties has a team going around listening to their comments at selected tournaments. Are they positive? Are they encouraging on the sidelines? It’s not just encouraging your own kids, it’s about encouraging other kids on the team. You can nominate moms.
Written by: Nicole Basham