Long pass to the outside. My son is there to take the pass. Not offsides. He runs. Sees teammate head to goal. My son makes a quick pass to teammate. Teammate scores. Hands up in the air. Goal three. Player on opposing team not happy. Runs to goal scorer and takes a swing. Misses. Screams from angry fans on the sideline. As teams face off again, player on opposing team kicks our teammate with cleats. Continuously. More screams on the sideline, “Hey! Hey!”. Finally, the player is taken off the field.

This scene took place at my son’s U8 (that’s under eight years old) soccer game last Saturday morning. The young boy sulked on the sideline as his coach talked to him. His mom was screaming bloody murder just a few lawn chairs away from us.

It is hard for players on non-competitive soccer leagues to play without wanting to win. You put a bunch of boys (or girls) on a field and all they want to do is score. Every boy out on the field is keeping track of the score even though it isn’t encouraged on a recreational league. There’s nothing wrong with a little competitive spirit on a rec league but team work and good sportsmanship is stressed at all times. That goes for both players AND parents. I’ve been through years playing “soccer mom” and I have seen many moments when parents and kids lost control. As a matter of fact, I believe more parents have lost it than the youngsters. I’ll admit my husband and I can get loud with our cheering, and at times, I may advise my son to, “Hustle!”, “Run!”, or “Get the ball!”. But we’ve learned to keep our lame coaching to ourselves and stuck with the tried and true, “Good job, boys!” or “Go white!” or “Nice try!” approach. When I asked my son if he minds our cheering, he first lets us know that he usually doesn’t hear us anyway, then he tells us that he wouldn’t mind us cheering him on as long as we don’t tell him what to do. So far so good. Out on the field I can tell that he does appreciate our attention and occasionally flashes us his endearing hey mom, hey dad smile.

There’s nothing like seeing your child kick one in the goal and then celebrate with his teammates with a flurry of high fives. But let’s mind our manners parents and players. Parents, let the coaches do the coaching. Let’s all act with decency around the kids, keeping the verbal abuse and negative reinforcement as far away from the game and as far away from your child as possible, because if any of one of them is swinging punches out on the field, it’s probably because of you.

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