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November 04, 2007

"...your parents are making you more aggressive..."

Soccer1 Our family loves soccer.  My husband grew up playing it. My son and his team are a bunch of great kids who genuinely love the game.  My daughter, well, she her teammates from the "Purple Princesses"  love to have snacks after a hard game. But today was different.  I am so...angry, disappointed, shocked and well, dumbfounded by it all. 

I suppose I am so pissed because today was my first time seeing the soccer field without my rose-colored glasses.  We all hear about "those" soccer parents.  The ones that yell and scream at their kids to run harder, kick farther and win at all costs.  I guess I have been livin' in a bubble.  I naively thought we don't have parents like that in our league, or at the very least, not in the Under 8 set.  Our kids are too young, they still play for the fun of it and parents are still supportive of kids who aren't the next David Beckham.  What an idiot I am. 

Today my son's team played an ugly game.  Both teams had strong forwards and good goalies.  They had players who passed and were unselfish.  Both teams also had bruisers, kids who were more aggressive than necessary and were unapologetic.  My son is included in that last group.  For example, I heard the coach/parent on the opposing team tell his son to "use his shoulder to knock the other kid down".  He also had a look of disgust and disappointment when it didn't work.  I caught myself yelling, "Get in there!  Take the ball, it's yours!"  On the other hand, I cringed when I saw my son kick the goalie in the knee by accident and didn't bother to help him up. The game and the frustration escalated and I was glad it ended.

It is easy to write it off as, "Boys will be boys.  Whatever lady, it is part of sports, kids get aggressive."  But this game was different.  The 14 year old referree had to stop the game several times to tell the kids, "Try not to kill each other." But what really ticked me off and embarrassed me as an adult was the referee had to pull the players in and said, "I know your parents are making you be more aggressive, take it easy."  Wow! the 14 year old in the group had to say it.   I was embarrassed for us all. 

I came home upset about what we were teaching our son about being aggressive and sportsmanship.  I am still upset about what that coach/parent was teaching our son by being so openly disappointed in his son at his failure and his urging for his to son to break rules to win at all costs.  It makes me sick to my stomach and makes me long for the early days of soccer, when the biggest concern was not about who would win the game, but what we had for snacks afterward.

Luckily, we came home and there was a great article in the San Jose Mercury News written by L.A. Chung today about an East Palo Alto soccer team who beat the odds and made it to the championship game.  While they lost, they learned more about leadership, team and themselves.  It was a perfect way to help defuse my frustration. I made my son sit down and read the article to me and we talked as a family about what the article meant and how it meant for my son and his team. While  I am sure that he would have rather been doing anything else in the world besides chatting with his mom about being tough on the soccer field, he was attentive and thoughtful.  I had to bust out the sanctimonious parenting voice and make sure he knew I didn't approve of anyone's behavior. Ugh!  I suppose we all could use more of that training from the Positive Coaching Alliance.

I feel better now, more calm. But that 14 year old refs' words will be with me for a while, "...your parents are making you be more aggressive...".  Words that cut like a knife for any parent.

Originally posted at SheilaBD's personal blog xiaolinmama.