I was sitting in a lawn chair when she stood up. A roundish middle-aged woman with frizzy brown hair (so basically, just like me). She was probably a mom who was thinking about what to make for dinner later, who had prodded her child to find clean socks and remember her cleats, who was probably a really nice person in any other walk of life.
In this walk, however, her face was contorted in rage. She was literally “spitting mad.” The sound didn’t carry well, but the snarl certainly did.
What was it that would have her all worked up on the sidelines of a high school girls soccer game? A recreational game at a local park? Girlwonder, basically. She had bumped the woman’s daughter during the course of the game. Both girls were called for well-deserved fouls. It happens.
Neither girl complained as they headed toward their respective benches. Instead of encouraging her child to shake it off, stay focused, and keep her head in the game, she decided to shout at mine. She threatened to “come out there.”
The male seated next to her attempted to shush her. Girlwonder tossed her ponytail, turned, and put her heart and head back into the game. The adult on the sidelines continued to complain and mutter.
It was a beautiful summer evening. The girls were playing hard and having fun. Players from both sides were laughing and joking. Our daughter would say later “the players were really nice, but some of their parents were out of control.”
I said to her, “you’ll have that,” and then immediately thought how sad that was.
I’m usually busy chatting or swatting gnats out of my eyes, digging in my carry-on luggage turned purse for sunscreen, spilling my beverage, or otherwise convincing the world I shouldn’t be out without a keeper.
I tend to think all games are just “for fun.” I miss things. I like things to be competitive and fair, of course, I just have never understood the rabid need to behave as we have money on the game. My kids have won some, lost some, but have never won a car or anything that even remotely impacts world peace.
In 2011, Thomas Junta, 44, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the beating death of his 10-year-old son’s ice hockey coach. He beat the coach to death because he felt the game had been “too rough.” This was just one example of youth sport parents raging out of control. Today we seem to accept a fair amount of bad behavior as par for the course at youth sports.
I don’t know if we just hear more about sports parents gone bad these days or if the problem has grown? Maybe the lack of social media kept snarling 1970s parent misbehavior under wraps, but somehow I doubt it.
The parents of past generations allowed their progeny to toss lethally sharp lawn darts. Getting excited because someone bumped their special snowflake at soccer seems like a bit of a stretch. It’s not that our parents didn’t love us, I think they also just loved being adults who let kids be kids.
They were too busy not worrying about bike helmets and not using sunscreen and car safety seats to throw down at a pee-wee game. I remember parents in the stands of high school games smoking cigarettes (yes, really) and chatting amongst themselves. My high school actually had an ice hockey team, yet I don’t recall any “hockey dad” incidents.
Parents, let me assure you: Your unbridled passion for the game and your children is admirable. Your unchecked mouths and tempers are not. We all feel protective of our kids, I get that. There’s a natural feeling of wanting to defend our own. That said, on the playing field the referee, then coaches, are in charge.
Make new friends. Try not to take the game — or yourself — too seriously.
I know I’m just one parent, but I go to enjoy myself, chat with friends, and say “I love to watch you play” to some pretty amazing kids. I don’t like it when I go to watch kids play soccer (or volleyball, baseball, or track) and a hockey game breaks out.
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