Tips for Parents

How to Balance a Family of Three Soccer Players

In Grand Rapids, the Andersons had kids playing in potentially 10 games in two days.

By Terry Jacoby

It’s too bad Matt and Jill Anderson’s children didn’t play basketball because they could practically start their own club basketball team.

Instead, the Andersons, of Ann Arbor, Mich., have a soccer family that keeps everyone on the family roster quite busy and challenged to make sure everyone gets to practices and games and everywhere else they need to be.

The Anderson lineup features: Lucas, 12, who plays club soccer for Liverpool Ann Arbor; Ryan, 10, who plays for the Michigan Tigers out of Ann Arbor; and Macy, 7, who also plays for Liverpool Ann Arbor. They also have Ella, 13, who doesn’t play soccer but also has plenty of activities on her calendar.

“We definitely didn’t think this through when we were having kids,” said Matt. “We should have stuck at two. It would have been a lot easier but not as much fun.”

“Fun” can be a challenging word at times – but eventually they get there.

For example, on the weekend of April 22-23 all three of the Anderson soccer players headed to Grand Rapids for the annual United Spring Classic hosted by Midwest United FC.
“All three kids were at the same tournament but playing at different times and at different fields,” Anderson said. “There might be times Jill and I have to split up but we like to watch as many games as we can to support our kids.”

In Grand Rapids, the Andersons had kids playing in potentially 10 games in two days. And in order to get around to the different fields, the Andersons were forced to take two cars on the 270-mile roundtrip.

The Andersons can’t be three places at once so relying on – and trusting – others is a very important part of their daily schedule. The general philosophy of the club and its goals helps alleviate some of the worry.

“Both clubs try to strive for that family atmosphere,” Matt said. “A big thing for us is being able to carpool and rely on other parents. We need to know they will not only be on time but be safe.”

All three kids practice on Monday and Wednesday so the Andersons need to make sure their kids are there on time. “We set up a car pool where Jill will be driving either the Liverpool kids to practice and rely on someone else to get Ryan to practice or the other way around. Then I will help pick up after work from one of those practices.”

Practices are usually at the same time but at three different fields – so having someone organized is a key component to making this work for the Andersons. And that’s where Jill comes in.

“She is a very organized person and that’s the only way we have been able to manage this,” Matt says. “She has everything written down and tells me where I need to be.”

Jill has a color-coordinated calendar in the kitchen that she updates frequently. Lucas is orange, Ryan is green, Macy is pink and Ella is purple.

“Everything we do is based off that schedule and Jill does an amazing job keeping it updated so everyone knows not only where they need to be but also where everyone else needs to be,” Matt said.

The calendar is linked to their phones so they have access to it even if they are not at home.

“I can set reminders of where I need to be on my phone,” Matt said. “And technology certainly helps but it takes a special person who is organized to keep something like that updated and I’m lucky to have Jill.”

Matt works full-time at Coyote Logistics in Ann Arbor while Jill works part-time and is also the team manager for two Liverpool teams. Matt also helps with the club including organizing tryouts, finding resources for scholarships and securing sponsorships for the various teams.

Matt grew up playing soccer and coached at both Ann Arbor Pioneer High School – across the street from Michigan Stadium – and Dearborn Heights Crestwood HS. He passed his passion for the game on to his children who have taken it to another level – the highest level.

Liverpool Football Club International Academy-Michigan is a premier soccer academy based in Pontiac, Mich., with teams in Waterford and Ann Arbor. The club features more than 90 teams and 1,100 players ages 8-18 who compete in premier and mid-level select programs.

The club, originally founded in 1995 as the Force Football Club, formed a partnership last year with Liverpool FC International Academy-America to become its first official partner club in the Midwest.

The Michigan Tigers Futbol Club is a soccer organization sanctioned by the Michigan State Youth Soccer Association, WSSL, and MSDSL and is headquartered in Ann Arbor. The Michigan Tigers are the fastest growing soccer organization in Michigan over the past three years, increasing teams and players by 200 percent.

“Spring is a busy time and we will put a couple thousand miles on our vehicles just driving the kids to tournaments all over the state,” Matt said. “With State Cup, you have to travel to Traverse City (250 miles from Ann Arbor) and Grand Rapids. We also have games all over Southeastern Michigan.”

The Liverpool teams have also traveled to Cincinnati and Chicago and other out-of-state tournaments. But those usually come on the fall schedule.

Whether out of state or down the street, club soccer tournaments are all-day events.

“We bring coolers and a canopy and just camp out at the field until it’s time to go back to the hotel,” Matt said. “We leave the hotel at 8 a.m. and don’t get back until around 8 p.m. so it’s a long day. We try to prepare our own food and bring it or get a big sub and cut it up and that will be our lunch.”

It’s a huge commitment for the Andersons. But with Matt’s background in soccer he knew what he was getting into. And that’s not always the case.

“We know some club parents who didn’t expect this kind of commitment level that is required at this level,” he said. “Parents need to know going in what they are getting their son or daughter into and be committed to making certain sacrifices. Family and school of course come first but if you are going to sign up your child for club soccer there needs to be that commitment.”

It’s a commitment the Andersons plan on continuing. Because at the end of the day, they eventually arrive at “fun.”