Playing Soccer Twice a Week Makes Me a Better Dad

I can just go and hang out with somebody and kick the ball around, play soccer, score some goals, whatever. It takes me back to being young again.

Welcome to “How I Stay Sane,” a weekly column where real dads talk about the things they do for themselves that help them keep grounded in all the other areas of their life — especially the parenting part. It’s easy to feel strung-out as a parent, but the dads we feature all recognize that, unless they regularly take care of themselves, the parenting part of their life will get a lot harder. The benefits of having that one “thing” are enormous. For Nick Glassett, 33, from New Orleans, Louisiana, that thing is soccer. Picking up the sport again after a decade break gave him a relief from the structure of his day — and reminded him what it felt like to be a kid.

I played soccer from when I was four years old to when I was 18. I had some scholarship offers that I turned down. I was tired of playing. And by the time I got my first real job, at 19, I stopped playing soccer altogether. Through my 20’s, I just worked like crazy. I worked over 50 hours a week every single week. I became quite successful. I got a big promotion at a young age, at a big company. It was awesome. And then I turned 30. I looked around and was like, okay, this is part of the plan.

But I knew I needed to do something else. I started tinkering around. I started playing fantasy football, I got way too serious with that for a little while. I was building things, woodworking, whatever. And then I was actually at one of my kid’s friend’s birthday party and I started talking to another dad. And he mentioned that he used to play soccer overseas when he was younger, and told me about a league near us. The next day, we met up and kicked the ball around a little bit at this indoor soccer facility that I didn’t even know existed, that’s right around the corner from my house. All I had to do is step up and kick the ball, and I felt like, oh my god, I missed this.

My wife owns a hair salon, and told me about her friend, Andy. Andy was one of her clients. She told me that Andy plays in a league on Wednesday nights at the indoor field and had been asking her about me playing. I was like, ‘What! Are you serious?’ Andy and I started texting, and me and my new buddy got spots on Andy’s team.

And then I went all in. Spent too much money on cleats. Bought all my shin-guards, socks, shorts, all that stuff. That was three years ago. One of the guys on the team also played in a fall outdoor league, he invited me to play in that. So now I play in both leagues: Indoor on Wednesday, and outdoor on Sunday. I wake up on Wednesday mornings. They are like, the best mornings of the week.

It’s right in the middle of the week, and I know I get to go play soccer that night. Wednesday morning is like, cool, let me go to work and get this over with so tonight I can go to my game and go hang with the boys.

The games, don’t get me wrong, they get way too intense. You have 30-year-old guys and testosterone. But we don’t have practices. I have a soccer goal in my backyard so I’ll go back there and just kick it around a little bit and take some shots. Just work on my skills by myself. So time commitment wise, it’s really flexible. I’m a super busy guy and I have my oldest, who is four and a half, and my youngest is three months old. It’s perfect because it’s so flexible and the games are pretty short.

For years, I didn’t work out, ever. So the physical activity of the game is great. But it’s more than that: the camaraderie with my teammates is awesome. When I became a dad, and because I have a job that’s got a lot of responsibilities, I was so wrapped up in things that are tracked and measured. My life is analytics. With soccer? I can just go and hang out with somebody and kick the ball around, play soccer, score some goals, whatever. It takes me back to being young again. I care so much about this silly game that literally means nothing.

And honestly, I’m everybody’s boss at work. I have close to 300 people working below me. That dynamic is weird. I told my wife the other day that I used to be a lot more funny. She said I’m not as funny anymore because everyone laughs at my crappy jokes at work because I’m the boss. I don’t have to try very hard. When I play soccer, I’m just another guy on the team. I don’t have that relationship with anyone at work. The next closest person to me that has my same position is in Alabama. I’m literally the boss at all times at work. So when I go to the games, it takes the edge off. I’m just another one of the guys.

When a game is over, we’re sitting around, taking our shin guards off, talking about how we played in the second half, the way we moved the ball. It can get so serious for an hour and fifteen minutes. And then I get in the car and I drive back home and I’m back to regular life. It’s a necessary escape.