‘soccer mom’: meaning and origin (2024)

The colloquial American-English expression soccer mom designates a suburban middle-class woman who spends a lot of time actively and enthusiastically supporting her young child or children’s sporting, and other, activities.

The earlier synonymous expression soccer mother occurs, for example, in the following two texts:

1-: In the column Slap Shot, by Stu McGraw, published in the Richmond Review (Richmond, British Columbia, Canada) of Wednesday 1st November 1967:

Soccer is not controlled only by the men and boys. Soccer mothers and wives get into the act. And a good thing, too. Take for example Mrs. Thornton, wife of RJSL president and equipment man, Bud Thornton.
For two weeks prior to the first games, the Thornton living room is the distributing centre for 1,110 soccer uniforms and equipment. And when a game or practice is cancelled or changed because of weather conditions, who phones the 15 boys on every team.
The soccer mothers! Those long-suffering wives who not only endure a kitchen full of papers, news letters and schedules, but also wash and maintain uniforms. And muddy floors. Keep up the good work, ladles, it’s all part of the game!

2-: In the column Parenthetically Speaking, published in the Madison-Florham Park Eagle (Madison, New Jersey, USA) of Thursday 25th January 1968:


That controversy over sports emphasis at Madison High School just seems to be getting into high gear this week. The editor received multiple letters speaking on both sides of the argument. Excerpts follow:
The mother of a soccer player (who signs her name but wishes to be known only to the editor) writes about contrasts:
It is true that the Madison soccer team practices and plays with as much spirit as the football team. Moreover soccer, the greatest spectator sport worldwide, is really interesting to watch.
This is especially true at Madison’s home games where we have a unique choice of seats – (1) grass, or (2) cement walk. Madison players also have a unique choice of uniforms – (1) faded and torn, or (2) faded and mended by mother.
Washing and mending are old comfortable habits of mothers, and when it’s not muddy most people don’t mind sitting on the ground. Neither do I begrudge a champion football team their own banquet and gold watches. But these are all small indications of second-class citizenship in the Athletic Department.
I do admit envy of football parents who enjoy the security of a doctor and ambulance in attendance at their games. I know that it was agonizing for soccer players, three times this season with broken bones and once with a head injury, to wait long periods for medical attention.

The earliest occurrences of the expression soccer mom that I have found are as follows, in chronological order:

1-: From this letter, published in The Argus tapes, in The Argus (Fremont, California, USA) of Friday 21st September 1973:

In defense of soccer
EDITOR: My letter is in defense of soccer. It is about time that soccer leagues get some publicity. Unfortunately though, we read of complaints in the Argus Tapes instead of reports in the sports section.
Fremont’s kids are involved in a fine soccer league supported by our local businesses. We mothers are willing to drive our kids from one end of town to the other to participate in practices and games. Soccer fields are few and far between in this city. Perhaps the kids at Walters Junior High School will realize that soccer is an upcoming sport and it is about time these younger kids are entitled to enjoy sports as much as the older ones.
Soccer is ideal for them as everyone participates and six is not too young to leam the game. You should see play—he is a tiger.

2-: From Promoting soccer vs. giving it away, by Mark Osmun, published in The Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii, USA) of Friday 22nd April 1977—the fact that the expression soccer mom occurs in quotation marks and with capitalised initials seems to indicate that it was already well established:

Western Airlines will send a “Soccer Mom” and her child on an all-expense trip to see Team Hawaii play in Minnesota. The game coincides with Mother’s Day. The winners are selected by a 25-word-or-less write-in, followed by a goal-shooting contest.

The expression soccer mom was popularised during the U.S. presidential election campaign of 1996 as designating an influential voting bloc.

The earliest occurrences of the political use of soccer mom that I have found are as follows:

1-: From Citizen crime fighters can get free cell phones, by the Press Democrat news services, published in The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, California, USA) of Thursday 18th July 1996—Edward Gillespie (born 1961) is a U.S. political consultant:

Republicans acknowledge that a series of presidential speeches—endorsing school uniforms and youth curfews, for instance—has helped his [i.e., Bill Clinton’s] image on crime issues, but they promised the boost will evaporate once the fall campaign begins.
While federal statistics show many categories of crime declining modestly, they show youth violence on the rise. Dole and other Republicans will hit this category hard, according to Republican National Committee spokesman Ed Gillespie.
“No amount of photo ops is going to let him fight his record,” Gillespie said.
Most politically damaging, he predicted, will be statistics that show youth drug use is on the upswing. “Take that record out to the soccer moms in the suburbs,” Gillespie said.

2-: From Clinton swipes the GOP’s lyrics, by the U.S. journalist Eugene Joseph Dionne Jr. (born 1952), published in The Washington Post (Washington, District of Columbia, USA) of Sunday 21st July 1996—Alejandro Castellanos (born 1954) is a Cuban-born U.S. political consultant:

“THE GOOD news is that we may elect a Republican president this year,” said Republican consultant Alex Castellanos. “The bad news is that it may be Bill Clinton.”
No, Clinton doesn’t hold a secret GOP party card. The president is, and has always been, a registered Democrat. But frustration with Clinton’s success in co-opting stances associated with Republicans, blurring issues and adopting aspects of Ronald Reagan’s rhetorical style penetrates deep on both the right and the left. […]
[…] Republicans are […] upset by Clinton’s co-opting of socially conservative themes, especially his direct appeal to suburban working couples worried about how they will manage to raise decent children. The Republicans would like to associate the non-inhaling Clinton with the permissive values of the 1960s. Instead, he has been talking about ’90s-style family values.
Castellanos has a shrewd view of what Clinton is up to in pushing such initiatives as school uniforms, teen curfews, crackdowns on truancy, gun restrictions and the V-chip to block obscene programming on television. The president, following the advice of consultant Dick Morris among others, is sending a message to a voter Castellanos calls “soccer mom:” the overburdened, middle income working mother who ferries her kids from soccer practice to scouts to school. Clinton’s message is, the government will do what it can to help her raise her kids and establish some order in her family life.
Castellanos adds that Clinton’s specific (and putatively liberal) spending commitments—to Medicare and Medicaid for the parents of “soccer mom” and student loans for her children—reinforce the message that Clinton and by extension the federal government is a “protector” of her family.

Eugene Joseph Dionne Jr. used the expression soccer mom again in an article published in several newspapers on Thursday 29th August 1996—for example in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri, USA):

A newly appointed class of Especially Important Swing Voters, the “soccer moms” who work and run around frantically to take care of their kids and everything else.

This led the U.S. columnist Molly Ivins (1944-2007) to write the following in Say some soccer moms: Don’t talk down to us, published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas, USA) of Sunday 15th September 1996:

AUSTIN—As all alert citizens know by now, politically, this is the Year of the Soccer Mom. Soccer moms—those harried, frazzled, overburdened (but still game and cheerful) women—are this year’s critical group of swing voters.

‘soccer mom’: meaning and origin (2024)


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