31 Aug
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Kids’ soccer is back!
And the adults should just get out of the way, advises writer ALAN BLACK

School is back, and that means soccer season is primed to kick off. Cleats are being bought. Shin guards are being fixed. Balls are being rolled. The sliding doors of various vans are popping open, and young persons of all shapes and sizes are running towards the soccer fields. Soccer moms and dads fiddle with their calendars, squeezing time, slimming down their summer peace in exchange for the autumn campaign — the one on the sidelines. The dreadful coaches, the obnoxious parents and the blind referees. Winning is everything, and then it’s not, when junior’s team cannot score, ever.

Many teams will lose close, some will be wiped out. Thousands of kids with no skill will be running after a ball, bunching like bananas, skinned by more talented and organized peers. Junior’s squad is turning out to be the worst team in the history of the sport. No American wants to be holding the wooden spoon, stirring a soup of losers. And some parents get mad, hardly awake on a Saturday morning at 9 a.m., annoyed that the “Tall” Starbucks cup is as short as Danny DeVito. And it never stays hot.

So they yell!

“What the hell are you doing, coach?”

Or whisper curses like a ventriloquist.

“Oh, I hate him. That ref is as blind as a bat.”

All the while wondering why their kid is spending so little time on the field.

They’re coming off a boss in a bad mood, news filled with pointless presidential bashes and every large-carbon-footprint company suddenly converting to green. But the only green on the losing sideline is envy. Look at them over there, smiling, as their kids whip junior and his teammates. Soon the sire is begging to be put in swimming class. “I want to be like Phelps, and eat all those omelets.”

Week after week, yawn after yawn, the fall campaign bogged down in recrimination and vindictiveness, some parents abandon the cause, others hardly care, but there is always one guy who can’t take it anymore. And he explodes. Chasing the referee to his car after the game, blasting the coaches with volleys of fury, maybe even punching another parent. It makes the local newspaper, maybe the nationals if someone really gets hurt. The rage wars leave wounds.

It’s a problem that won’t go away. A recent report by the University of Maryland surveyed parents in the Washington, D.C., area and found that 53 percent of parents felt angry during their kids’ soccer game. The June 2008 issue of Applied Social Psychology concluded that sideline rage is a close relative of road rage, triggered by the nasty defensive plays of the ego. With traffic jams everywhere and people toxic and fuming at rising gasoline prices, it’s a link that smells like more trouble to come.

Jay Goldstein, a researcher at the University of Maryland Department of Public Health, provides advice for parents prone to explosive behavior: Suck on lollipops during games to keep your mouth shut, do yoga stretches, visualize floating on water, etc.

But if we are to drown out the adult bullies and the aggressors, more imaginative measures may be needed. End the age of obsessive parental control. It’s time to let the children go.

Kids should organize games themselves, pick their own teams, abandon the need for referees. Soon the natural order of leaders and followers will rise, collective fairness will ascend, disputes resolved by interaction and not authority. Throw a little freedom at kids and they will use it productively.

Parents can watch the games at a safe distance, on a raised platform, out of earshot with binoculars in hand, if they really need to keep an eye on junior. The referee will be with them and he can hand out yellow and red cards to coffee-ripped adults showing dissent to society at large. At least the kids won’t hear the moaning. Let them play their games away from adults. The results will be good.



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  2. Nigel Reed September 4, 2008 at 1:54 am #

    I have been coaching kids soccer for over 10 years, and keeping the sidelines happy is not an easy task, but as the coach you can direct the parents to only provide positive and sporting feedback. I have had to discipline my fair share of parents, and generally it has worked well. There are a number of clues for coaches in this free handbook

  3. cjw666 September 29, 2008 at 9:20 am #

    Hm, I know what you mean, but have you read the book “The Lord of The Flies”? Sorry, but I think the kids would become more even like the parents rather than the other way round, because most of the parents never grew up in the first place – that’s why they behave the way they do and that’s why many of their kids are “little monsters” at heart.

  4. TSP October 31, 2008 at 8:53 pm #

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