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Oh, How I Love Takoma Soccer!

(But can we reconsider the snacks?)

In this age of obesity, videogames, cut-throat competition and ridiculously long drives to chilren’s soccer games in overpriced leagues, there is an oasis of sanity: Takoma Park soccer.

Because of Takoma soccer, and the legions of volunteer organizers, coaches, assistant coaches, linespeople and referees, my kids have learned ball handling skills, not to give up when you’re losing and how to have fun with just a ball and another kid. All without my dipping into the college fund to pay soccer fees or, usually, even backing the car out of the garage. No more drives to Poolesville.

And there’s good sportsmanship, usually by both kids and parents. One Monday downtown, a colleague was laughing because at his kid’s baseball game in Bethesda a coach got angry at a child who didn’t try hard enough to throw out an opposing player at second and yelled: “When they found Osama bin Laden, they didn’t hesitate. They SHOT HIM. THROW THE BALL!”

At our soccer game that same weekend, one kid passed the ball to another and a parent cheered: “GOOD FACILITATION!”

Okay, so that’s going a little far but you see what I love.

What I don’t love is the snacks. I know that Takoma soccer holds the view that if kids have fun, and snacks help with that, that they will be more likely to sign up and live more healthy lives in the long run.

They could be right, but I cringed each time my kids, when they were young, played a sometimes very short soccer game and then ate a bag of barbecue Doritos as big as their little heads and drank a fake juice-like product. The snacks were certainly more calories than the game burned up, not to mention the excessive salt and sugar.

Since my kids are now 10 and 11, and games run more than an hour, the snack/exercise ratio is less out of whack. And the parents on our team generally encourage healthy eating so I obsess less about the snacks now.

But I’m still anti-snack. I’m aware I hold an unpopular view -- especially with snack-loving kids. And while I get it that young kids need to eat small amounts every couple of hours, this is not true as the kids approach their teen years. (I understand they then need to eat large amounts every hour but I haven’t witnessed it yet.)

I’ve dealt with this with my kids’ teams different ways. I’ve occasionally said I’d bring the snacks all season. And each week the kids got a bag of homemade popcorn with a touch of olive oil and salt.  I know other parents also dislike the snacks. I can see it when a mom or dad pulls out the “snack bag” and it’s a bunch of clementines. Some kids grumble but our job isn’t to make kids ecstatic every minute. It’s to ensure they grow up healthy.

I’d love to see a re-thinking of snacks. Or a phasing out as kids get older. Or a decision by the league to encourage parents to bring snacks for their family if they want. That way, at least, I’ll get to decide what my kids eat instead of the parent bringing the snack. I’d like that choice.

And I’m sure the coach (or his wife) would love never again handing out a snack signup sheet.

I’m not a total grouch, however. I’ll happily host the end-of-season party and I’ll make a fab chocolate, cherry bread pudding.

Here’s the recipe: find any bread pudding recipe and strip out the flavorings. Add in three ounces of chocolate chips and a can of cherries (drained). Bake as original recipe directed. It’s done when a knife comes out of the pudding clean.

LAST: GO LIME GREEN THUNDER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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