You hear the stories all the time.
You see them, sometimes, at the games.
The parents yelling obscenities at the ref for the call against their team.
The baseball mom screaming at the fourteen-year-old umpire for missing an out.
The hockey dad talking down to the opposing team and encouraging his twelve-year-old to fight.
The adults so competitive about their kids' sports they forget that it's recreation - and that they're kids.
But it's still shocking when it's actually happening in front of you.
Our kids are into soccer - they've played a few seasons of other sports, but soccer is their sport of choice. They love to play the game. They love running drills, they love perfecting their technique, they love practicing their footwork and taking shot after shot on goal to improve their skills. You don't really expect to see those crazy competitive parents at a soccer game.
But they're there.
We're pretty lucky with our team - there don't seem to be any crazy parents. There's the one mom I refer to as "crazy rep mom" - loud, brash, a little pushy, a little aggressive, constantly reminding us all how involved her family is in sport and trying to give the coaches pointers - but in all fairness when it comes to game time she cheers on all the kids on both teams and keeps her mouth shut when it comes to coaching and calls. Our team parents are fantastic at games and tournaments - we're always the loudest, most enthusiastic bunch there and having played together since last fall we've become friends. We're like a little family. Everyone knows everyone else's kids' names and cheers on good plays and goals and shouts words of encouragement after errors. And we're fair - if the ball goes out and the ref missed the play, we'll call it fairly even if it's the other team's ball. Because these are children, and this is a game.
But some of the other parents? Not so much.
I can't believe some of the comments that come out of these parents' mouths.
"Come on, ref, are you blind?"
"What the hell are you doing, coach?"
"Kick it left, number three sucks."
"No ice cream if you don't get a goal."
"Let's go, Eric, you can kill this kid."
"How could you let that one in?"
No "good try, guys" or "nice play" or "don't worry about it, you'll get the next one."
No words of encouragement for the kids on either team, no acknowledgement of the fact that these are kids - still learning and growing - trying to have fun playing a game they love.
At our first game of the season, what seemed to be the entire opposing team's parents questioned every call the ref made. At another game there was a group of parents snickering loudly at the smallest boy on our team (probably a head shorter than any other boy on the field) - who subsequently, I might add, ran circles around those bigger boys. Adults. Making fun of. A child. And at last weekend's tournament there was one opposing dad so vocal he actually got into a fight with our team's coach. Shouting, across the field, over the heads of fourteen very confused little boys. Our coach just kept responding, "just trying to do my job."
I feel sorry for those parents' kids.
We're all competitive. Some of us more than others. Nothing brings out the spirit of competition more than sport, and nothing brings a parent's aggressive nature out more than a sense of helping, defending, protecting, or sticking up for their kid. And of course there is another dimension to rep sports - even at this age, some parents have in the backs of their minds the possibility that this sport could turn into a scholarship or a career or at least a lifelong passion.
But we have to remember that these are kids. And these sports, rep or house league, are supposed to be fun.
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