Sunday, June 28, 2009

Was I one of the lunatics?

I spent a good part of yesterday watching young people, ranging in age from 13-17, play soccer. None of my own children were participating. Although my daughter's team was playing, she was at a parade with marching band. My husband was reffing this tournament and was scheduled non-stop on games from 8-6. In between sitting in the car, driving around the area, and spending time in the hotel we were planning to stay at, I caught a good part of several games. Now, I have been a "soccermom" since my now 19 year old son was 5. Three out of my four children have been serious soccer players with the fourth participating recreationally for a few years. I have coached many of their teams over the years as well. I played soccer through my freshmen year of college when a combination of injury and classes forced me to stop. All this to say that I at one time had a passion for this game...did you catch that? Game. It IS a GAME. Games are supposed to be fun. When I was small, my brother and I would play a game when we were bored on a winter afternoon. We did this to have fun. Whether it wasa long game of Monopoly or a shorter game of Life, we enjoyed this pasttime. The word game in and of itself has the connotation of something that is done for fun. My time at the field yesterday, though, saw little fun being had.I saw boys and girls with faces that held looks ready to kill. I heard 17 year old boys whining to a referee that something done to them was grossly unfair and should have been called. I saw girls shoving other girls in the back in order to take the ball away. I saw deliberate trips and heard lots of language that if I had used at those ages would have abruptly earned me a soapy mouth. But the players were not the only ones carrying on. Parents on the sidelines were shouting as ten year olds might when fighting about whose dad is stronger. Adults yeling at referees about a perceived foul; adults yelling at their kids to play harder; adults encouraging retaliation since "the jerk isn't calling anything anyways". I wonder--in the prime of my motherhood years, when my children were younger and playing competitively, did I sound like this? My fear is I did. I am, afterall, a very competitive person. I perceive fairness and its opposite and I take it very seriously. I was also young. Now that I am older and, I believe, wiser, I realize that these matches are simply a game--a game that promotes exercise and teamwork and should promote respect for others regardless of the outcome at the end. I think this lesson has been lost over the years. Clubs are pushing PACT training. This is Parents And Coaches Together. This is supposed to help teach the PARENTS how to behave on the sidelines. I don't ever remember my parents needing to attend such a session to teach them how to behave like adults. If my team won, I was congratulated by my dad. If we lost, I was told it is only a game and there will be many more. My dad did not try to sign me up for camps and spend lots of money on training. Afterall, it was just a game, something I did because I loved it and had fun doing it. I fear the fun has been taken out of youth sports. Now there is pressure to be better to earn the coveted--and rare--sports scholarship. I feel badly that I may have been one of those parents who put too much emphasis on the outcome and not enough on just having fun. No wonder teens are dropping out of sports and activities. Adults have taken the fun of the game away from them.