THE JOURNEY OF A SOCCER MOM
by The Athlete's Parent Staff
Interview with with Jackie Craft
US Youth Soccer records show that in 2014, there were 3,055,148 young people who registered to play soccer in the United States. That makes for an awful lot of SUV’s being driven around by soccer moms! Although there are millions of them out there, all driving in different directions, soccer moms share a common journey; the journey to help their young athletes reach their dreams.
Jackie Craft, fellow soccer mom, shared with us over a cup of latte about the journey she is on with her three young soccer players. It’s a journey that began in a folding chair on an Abingdon, Virginia sideline, and has brought her to a seat in Toyota Stadium where her oldest son, Coy, plays for the FC Dallas MLS team.
"Coy was three, obviously athletic and really energetic,” shared Jackie. “Soccer was really the only option at that point, and so we put him in it and just thought it was cute to get him ready for ‘real sports’ like baseball, football, and any of those," she added as she laughed over her latte. While Jackie, and her husband, Chad, looked for a temporary sport for their three-year-old, Coy fell in love with the game of soccer. Realizing his love for the sport, the Crafts decided to let him to continue to play when they eventually met Declan Jogi, who was the competitive coach in Bristol, a town that straddles the state line of Tennessee and Virginia.
"He (Jogi) really fostered that interest in Coy, and saw a lot of talent and encouraged us to keep him in it,” said Jackie. Jogi guided the Crafts in their efforts to help Coy grow his talent, and in the meantime, the Craft’s other two children, Bailey and Shelby, also took an interest in soccer. Jackie found herself in all-out soccer mom mode. Throughout the years, many commented on Coy’s strong abilities in soccer, but according to Jackie, they just took it with a grain of salt. It wasn’t until Coy reached the age that he could try out for the Olympic Development Program (ODP) that things started catching their attention. At age 13, Coy made the national pool. “That's what really catapulted him in the sport, and we knew that maybe we did have something special on our hands, and we needed to know more about it,” said Jackie.
Soon after, the Crafts journey would take them beyond their small town of Abingdon, Virginia. “We started to outgrow the area,” added Jackie. “You can't have a 14-year-old needing to play up with 16-year-olds without really worrying about him getting hurt." The Crafts looked for opportunities for Coy to guest play with other teams, to help him to continue to develop and play among other talented players. “We were grasping at straws to keep him in the area,” said Jackie.
On one of Coy’s national team trips, Oscar Pereja was a staff coach and technical director at FC Dallas at the time. He noticed Coy’s abilities and invited him to try out for the FC Dallas Academy team. The try out resulted in Coy making the 16 Academy team at the age of 14, and thus began the Craft’s journey with FC Dallas.
"That's really what got us to Texas," said Jackie. Coy lived in in Texas for 6 months with a host family, and in their visiting they decided that Frisco would be a good destination for their whole family. Having two younger children who also had a talent for soccer made it an even more obvious choice for them. So, Jackie and her husband both started applying for jobs. "Chad got a job pretty much immediately,” said Jackie. “It wasn't just for soccer.” People assumed that they were just moving for Coy to play soccer, but in Jackie’s words, “That's why we visited the area, but without parents with secure jobs then you don't move."
Jackie's other two children Shelby and Baily also tried out, both making FC Dallas teams. You could pretty much say they became an FC Dallas family. Throughout their trek from Abingdon to Frisco, Jackie has watched Coy live out his dream of becoming a professional soccer player at age 17 as he plays with both FC Dallas MLS and their affiliate USL team, Oklahoma City Energy FC. As she continues to help all three of her teens reach their dreams, she gleans from her experience and offers advice to other soccer moms along their journeys.
"The biggest piece of advice from a parenting standpoint about your kid’s progress through becoming the best soccer player they can be is that at 10 you may have coaches telling you that you have an extremely talented child, but that doesn't mean that same talent will stand out at age 13. They grow, hit puberty, and some are slower growers that are really talented. Some are faster growers that aren't all that talented, but they figure it out. So between 10 and 15, really take what you see and what you hear from coaches moderately...not too seriously, but not too relaxed. Because nobody can tell you that your son or daughter is going to be a professional soccer player at age10. Between 10 and 15 you really have to just stick to the journey, and the focus should be on your kid being the best player that he or she can be...not being on the best team, or playing for the fanciest coach. It (the focus) should be on them developing their skills; their tactical and technical ability; their ability to lead; their ability to communicate; and their ability to take criticism and compliments. You need to find some type of balance in that. Because it really isn't until they're 15 or 16 that they're going to land somewhere, and it may not be soccer. It may be something else, or it may be that at 15 or 16 everything starts coming together. If you take it too seriously, it can be detrimental to your family, and really hazardous to your kids because they’re going to change every year. When they’re 10 they’re not going to be that same player at age 14…good or bad. Remember it’s a process, and sometimes you just have to be quiet, be still, and just focus on your kid playing well and getting better. Parents need to make sure their kids are growing as a player and a person, and at the same time having fun.”
For those who know the Crafts, one thing they will say of them is that they know how to have fun together. Jackie has done a tremendous job keeping her kids grounded, by creating an environment where they just enjoy being together. "We play a lot of games," shared Jackie when asked what they do for fun as a family. They're on the go enough with soccer that they enjoy grilling at home and just spending time relaxing. If Sunday is soccer free, then the Crafts know it's a time to worship together at church.
For every soccer mom, the journey travels beyond the field and sidelines. Long after the last game is played, the journey will continue. Because a soccer mom is ultimately just a mother helping her children reach all of their dreams.