It’s Meant To Be Fun

| September 29, 2010 | 5 Comments

Starting in early September, I drive by our local middle school on Saturday mornings watching for the start of the soccer season.  Our middle school is host to our recreation league soccer clubs.  As the mom of two select team players, I love driving by and seeing these rec leagues.  I love watching the different fields progressing from cluster soccer, with all of the little guys gathered around one ball, to something that more closely resembles real soccer.

Most of the kids are coached by parents who know little to nothing about the game but have been compelled to volunteer for the position because nobody else would.   But some of the parent coaches were apparently meant for bigger things.  They are beyond the recreation level.  They are even beyond the high school level.  They, at least in their own minds, are meant to be coaching English Premier League games and as they haven’t been called up yet, they coach from the sidelines of their seven year old daughter’s and son’s games as though they were EPL coaches, screaming at the players on the field and the refs alike.

The problem here is that the kids are not EPL players.  Their parents have put them on the team to learn a new game, get fit and most importantly to have fun.  And the referees, who are being berated by these coaches, for the most part, are teenagers who have taken a sixteen hour refereeing course and are literally learning on the job.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to be on the fields for about five minutes.  During this time, I witnessed one coach screaming at a child who was lying on the ground crying, to “get up, get up. Stop being a baby.”  The boy was no more than seven but the next play of the game was more important to this coach than the welfare of his player.  I watched another man, who turned out to be a coach who was ejected from a game the week before and should not have been at the field even as a spectator screaming at the 13 year old ref, “Ref,” he yelled, “you are an idiot. You don’t even know the rules of the game.”  Luckily another, more sane adult stepped in and escorted the irate coach from the field.

Both of my children, ages 14 and 16, referee and the stories they come home with make all of us cringe.  As a family who believes in the importance of lifelong fitness we see the long term damage of this type of behavior.  First, these coaches are dealing with children who are not going to move on to high school and college soccer.  Their understanding of team sports is coming from this early experience on the soccer field.  If their experience is with a coach that teaches them to love playing whether they win or lose, then maybe they will continue to play soccer or at least continue to stay active as they grow up. If their first experience of sports is with one of these coaches that can’t control their temper, then maybe they just quit sports all together.

The second bit of damage though is to the league as a whole.  If these young referees are faced with coaches who scream and berate them week after week, what are the chances they will want to continue?  As it is, we watch the league director frantically trying to fill refereeing spots each week.  What happens when it becomes impossible to fill every spot?

What can be done?  There are a couple of ways we might lessen this damage. First, if you are a parent who knows you are even-tempered and love fitness for fitness’s sake, volunteer to coach.  Your lack of knowledge of the sport is less important than your love of fitness itself.  Secondly, if you are a hothead and know that about yourself, there are things you can do.  Either don’t volunteer in the first place or take a breath before you say anything at all and commit yourself to not making a fool of yourself or hurting someone else on the field.  Find an assistant coach who will step up while you walk away and gather yourself.  Most importantly, remember this game is not about you but the kids on the field.

Saturday morning recreation league soccer is meant to be fun.  Not just for the kids or the spectators but for the volunteers as well.  My mama used to say, it’s just a game and as a competitive kid I used to roll my eyes.  But it IS just a game.  These kids aren’t playing for the glory of their country.  They are playing for fun.  As adults, let’s help keep it that way.

Freelance writer, Ann lives in Severna Park with her husband and three children. When not at the gym or running outside, she spends every free minute chasing a four-year-old or running her older children to soccer fields all over two states. Read more by Ann at Ann’s Running Commentary and at Patch.com. She can be contacted at [email protected] .

Category: LIFE IN THE AREA, Sports

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