What a soccer game.
The Princess Cupcake is in her fourth season of soccer at 4 years old. Being that her team is so young, we see plenty of kids who are still grasping the rules of the game – but today went beyond the forgivable.
And I’m not talking about the kid’s behavior. I’m talking about the parent’s.
I don’t blame a child who is a repeat offender for pushing. I don’t like it, but I blame the coach and the parents for not helping the child develop the right sportsmanlike skills. That’s why a coach is called a “coach.” When a child at 4 years old is allowed to continue to aggressively shove other children to the ground, there’s a problem and it’s a grown-up one. Remove the child from play and explain to him/her why he has to be benched for a few minutes.
In today’s soccer game, we saw a child with obvious athletic ability take out one of our star players – twice. Our parents were rightfully on edge and everyone had eyeballs on Green Team’s #7 in hopes that there’d be no real physical harm for any of the kids on the field. (Someone tell me why don’t they have penalty kicks at this age?) But when the Cupcake was driving the ball downfield and took a full body shove to the back of her head, falling so hard her shoe fell off… well, I’d call that crossing the line.
She was fine. She needs to toughen up a little anyway, but the point of impact was when our side of parents erupted and our coach stopped the game. (We don’t have refs in this league yet, on-field coaches serve as refs.)
This is also where things go south. The parents of the child doing all the pushing charged the field and started arguing with our coaches saying their kid was only 4 and he was just learning the game. (Uh, hello? Both teams are made of 4 year olds, we even have a 3.5 year old who knows not to play like that.) Throw in a couple cuss words, and some inappropriate banter and our coaches were rightfully ticked off (understatement).
Thankfully the situation was diffused, especially since #7’s Dad was about 6 foot 8 and a ringer for ex-NBA and our coaches are just, well, Dads… but it made for a rocky game and time for some parental reflection in the post scrum hours.
Was it handled the right way? What would we do next time?
I talked with my BFF afterwards who has two kids about 6 years older than the Cupcake, and she was sympathetic (of course) but not surprised. She’s seen parents knock over girls on their soccer team, cuss at the girls, and be so ugly that she has flat out said that there are some games she won’t allow her little girl to participate in because the other team parents are so out of control. She’s also left mid-match because the other team was playing so dirty that players were getting injured. And one baseball game in her area made the news because the parents actually beat up – beat up! – the umpires who were a father/son team. (Article here)
Seriously, what the H*LL?
I am a big supporter for team sports, but today’s events make me realize that the coach you choose is the most important decision you’ll ever make when enrolling your child in extra-curricular activities. The coach bears a lot of responsibility for setting the tone for parents and developing character in the kids. But the responsibility isn’t all on the coach, parents have to reinforce the message, setting good examples for their kids and talking about what’s good and bad behavior.
That’s great in theory, right? But what one sports parent thinks is appropriate is not the same for the next sports parent. We’re blessed to have amazing parents on our team and coaches that share our values, maybe because our team (coaches included) is made up of almost all kids who go to the same private Christian school. That doesn’t mean our kids don’t ever push, but it does mean that the village has similar conversations about what’s appropriate and what’s not when they’re both on and off the playing field. And I might add that neither my husband or I, or the parents of the other kid who got slammed to the ground a few times, joined the discussion center-field.
Bad Sports Dad had on a “Higher Goals Hoops Training” which makes me shudder at the thought that he might actually be teaching kids to behave the way he demonstrated on field today. You gotta love Karma though – a few minutes after the ‘altercation” he had to sprint to his car because it was about to be towed for parking in a known off-limits lot.
I know you’re smiling too.
Keep the discussion going: Here’s the best article I’ve read about sports parenting.