Saturday, October 31, 2009

Something in the Air

I have heard many legends of crazed parents coming out of the woodwork at children's sporting events. You know the ones...those who scream and shout and insult and seem to ache for a confrontation with someone, anyone. Yet, I have never really seen any of these parents in action. Until today. And today, they were out in spades. Maybe it was because it is Halloween. Or, maybe we just ran into everyone in the valley who happened to be in a bad mood. Whatever it was, it made for spicy sporting events!

It started at Julia's soccer game this morning. It began as a nice game, from our team's perspective, anyway. We were winning, 7-0 when a girl on the other team started shoving our girls. I don't mean pushing them casually during play. I mean really shoving them whenever they got near her to guard her, whether the ball was in her vicinity or not. At first there were just a few "hey!" type comments from our parents, and the assistant coach asked her, very nicely, to please stop pushing. It persisted until our coach asked her coach to remove her from the game. This request caused the other team's coach to come unglued (apparently, it was her daughter). She was not at all happy with the score and began blaming our coaches for not telling our girls to back off and let them have some goals. Seriously? This is a competitive sport, is it not?!

Things devolved extremely quickly. When the other team's coach refused to remove her daughter from the game (or even correct her) our coach eventually called the game, refusing to allow play to continue under those conditions. A literal swarm of parents came and physically confronted our coach and her husband. I, who never get involved in anything like this, actually stepped in the middle and was one of several parents pulling them apart. One mom was saying, "How dare you talk to our players!" as if we should really, truly not say anything when one of their players was physically assaulting our players. Truly unbelieveable.

However, I, who am not nearly as much of a soccer fan as I am a football fan, found this to be one of the most interesting, engaging soccer games I have ever attended, so I guess every situation has it's positive points.

This spirit of confrontation followed us to Joey's football game where it was my very own husband who found himself in the middle of an altercation. Jay counts plays for Joey's team and usually watches the game from the other team's sideline, where he is most often stationed. His job is to make sure that the other team is honest about how many plays each team member logs during a game, to be sure every player is played at least 10 plays. He has done this job many times and has never had a problem (although he has often reported how lucky we are in our coaching staff relative to the mess that are some other teams in our league).

As he always does, Jay was cheering for Joey when he made some especially good pops. The opposing team's coaches told Jay to shut up and accused him of "coaching" Joey from the sidelines. He was absolutely not doing that, just cheering and encouraging him to block his man, so he gave those coaches a little feedback that let them know in no uncertain terms that it was his right and duty to cheer for his own kid and that he was going to continue to do so. Three very large coaches pushed him back and started screaming at him. Jay held his ground and ultimately told them to count their own plays, returning to our side. After a brief investigation by the president of the league, Jay was well supported. Even the other team's team mom said that Jay was not the problem, that he had been nice the whole time. Nevertheless, he wisely remained on our side for the rest of the game. In what I thought to be a totally classy move on his part, Jay made of point of shaking hands with the worst offender coach after the game when he passed him in the parking lot.

What on earth is going on here? Should we not cheer for our children, no matter where in the field we are? Should we not demand that players play fair and follow rules of conduct for a game? There are bullies everywhere who will run you over if you don't stand your ground.

And it seems we ran into every one of them today.

(And, by the way, this ends regular season play for our boys. Joey's team is undefeated with a bye for the first week of playoffs and Sam's team has just one loss. Playoffs, here we come!)


Anonymous said...

Yes, of course we should encourage and cheer on our own children, and yes, we should all (coaches, parents and children) be courteous and respectful to others in the midst of the competitive play, and yes, we should all be there to watch and play and coach in the spirit of fun and fairness.... yada, yada, yada...... but where are the pictures of the kids in their costumes this year?

nicole said...


As for the soccer game, was the referee noticing the shoving? We've had some problems in the past too, we try to handle it with the ref first, before confronting the coach. I hope it won't happen again, it definitely is not fun for the kids.