You remember the scene above from the 2000 film “Remember the Titans” don’t you? Mr. Bosley gets up from his seat and yells towards the field “He’s taking Alan out! Yoast!” Its made funny by a little Hayden Panettiere telling him his son is getting beat like he stole something. But its not funny that this happens all the time at kids sporting events. I hear its really bad in football and hockey, but all I know right now is soccer. And boy can it get ugly. Maybe a more apropos movie would be Will Ferrel’s “Kicking and Screaming” but I couldn’t get the Titans out of my head this past weekend when I nearly had my own incident.
Now, the thing is, i’ve gone through the coaching and referee training for AYSO so I know more about the game than the average joe, I would say. So when I watch the game, its through a couple of different lenses, which sometimes makes it hard to enjoy. Knowing that the refs screwed up or the coaches are putting in the wrong lineup is rough on me at games, but except for maybe one outburst a couple years back, I think i’ve been able to keep rather calm lately about that kind of stuff. However, the one lens that you can’t take off is the parental one that wants to make sure your kid isn’t hurt or being treated unfairly.
I’ve gone out of my way to make it a point not to question the coaches because afterall, they are just volunteers and they work with the kids, so they should know best about the team. But when my kid is affected, all bets may be off. I will say that I’ve never once got up in the coaches face about something or yelled directly at a referee. Sure, i’ve muttered stuff under my breath and complained in my own personal space, and I did yell at one opposing coach that was admonishing my son for something that was clearly not his fault (I was coaching at that time and would have stuck up for any of my players), but never jumped up and went out there on the field. Almost broke my streak this past weekend.
The match kicked off and my kid was sitting on the bench. A little annoyed because I know he can play better than some of these kids but hey no problem, maybe he’ll come in to substitute since he is the only one not playing. First half goes by and no subs. A bit perturbed now. They allowed five goals, the defense is playing horrible and nothing is going right on offense either, but they don’t sub him in to try and fix it? Maybe he’s getting benched for the first half because he missed the last game and one practice? I tell myself, yeah, that must be it, I can deal with that. If he doesn’t get off that bench in the second half though, i’m gonna be pissed. Break is over and he’s still sitting there. Now i’m livid. I packed up my stuff and walked back to the car. That’s right, I walked back to the car.
I thought about going out there to talk to the coach and ask why he wasn’t playing, but I didn’t want to be that parent whining about playing time. Maybe there was a reason he was sitting out? Maybe he had a poor attitude? Maybe, but as far as I was concerned, they were getting killed out there and he wasn’t even getting a chance in garbage time. So, yeah, I was mad. Packing up my stuff and walking past the field to my car probably made me look like mad too. I also had to take a walk around the complex just to chill out, BUT, I wasn’t the guy yelling “Yoast!”
There was a time not too long ago that I probably would have been that parent, yelling from the other side of the pitch, screaming for him to play. I have learned to deal with it though and as they say “let the coaches coach, the players play, and the referees ref.” Even though its taken the form of walking away, its better that I do than to get into some kind of fight about a kids game. Sure i’ll always be there to defend my kid (to the death if need be), but at some point you need to step back and let them play, let them learn and allow them to grow as a player and a person.
Its something that doesn’t come in the parent manual, how to let go. You spend years (18+) keeping them safe and being in charge that you forget that in the real world they need to do it on their own. For me, sports has always been that place where you learn life lessons, so I had to remind myself that it can be for him as well. While people bash the idea of participation trophies and everyone gets to play, we also forget what its like to be those kids that are left out. Sometimes being left out makes you stronger and try harder, but not for everyone. Sometimes its being able to get in the game and score their first goal, make that one catch, or finally get to first that triggers a change. While we want the lessons of competition to be learned, lets not forget the lesson of teamwork and realize that its just a game.
When it all comes down to it, its just a game. The kid isn’t winning the world cup in this game or the next. Sit back and enjoy the game and enjoy that they are experiencing sports and all that comes with it. If you have to take a walk, go catch pokemon or something. If you can’t handle the calls, move further away from the field. Take some time to see if you are one of those annoying sports parents and make a change. Your family will thank you for it, so will the coaches, refs, and team. Turn your yelling into a positive (“good job”) and show support without going overboard. After 10 years or so, i’m learning to do that, and if you find me in my car at a game or out walking around, at least you know i’m trying.
Post-script: He didn’t play because he wasn’t on the roster. They told us after the game. Would have been nice to know earlier so at least we could enjoy the game, but I guess no one thought of that. Different kind of perturbed now.