Our son made the city’s U9 soccer team. This was exciting for us. Both of our girls had been playing soccer for the city for a couple of years, and he was so excited to have his own team and games. People out there with the third child will really understand- it’s finally about them.
I don’t have to tell you that due to COVID it’s been hard to get the kids into activities over the last two years. So full disclosure, my son is not very experienced in soccer and even less so in playing actual games. In simpler words, he’s not the best.
I complain about going to soccer games non-stop but the truth is I love it. I love cheering the kids on. I love watching them learn and get better each game. This boy’s team is full of adorable 7 year old boys who love to play. Some of them are really good and are really into it. Theses kids have the “futbol is life” vibe going (shout out to Ted Lasso). You can always spot the kid who plays FIFA nonstop because his goal celebrations are always the best. Tristan is taking a minute to warm up. It’s not coming as easy as he thought it would. This is what I love about sports, it’s been a great lesson for him in having to work hard in order to achieve. But he’s getting out there every day and I am so proud of him for it.
This last weekend we had a soccer game. It was their 5th game of the season, and we were going into it 0-4. First seasons are hard. It’s a learning curve for sure. At one point during the game our team got fouled and one of the kids was getting ready to kick a penalty kick from midfield. At the same time, Tristan was subbed in. He clearly had not been paying attention to what was going on, because Tristan came onto the field, saw the penalty kick lined up, and just took the shot.
Should he have done that? Absolutely not! I mean it was terrible. The coach definitely needs to pull him aside and tell him that he needs to pay attention and give him a good coach lecture. As a parent I definitely am going to talk to him later about being a team player and paying attention when on the bench. As an observer though, this was hilarious. I mean the stakes are ZERO! A kid coming off the bench and just launching a penalty kick when he isn’t supposed to is kind of hysterical.
You know who was not amused? Some of the fathers on the team. Particularly the father of the boy who was supposed to take the kick. In fact, he was so unamused that he went out of his way to yell at my son. Loudly. More than once.
He took a soccer game, something that is supposed to be fun and a place to learn, and made it traumatic. Naturally my Cuban genes kicked in and I retorted something that had an F word. I can’t be entirely sure because my rage made me black out. I remember Bobby telling the man to relax. This man never even turned to face us, and he definitely never apologized. This game, and now this team, was not feeling like a safe place for my kid. Frankly, it doesn’t seem like a safe place for any of these kids to make a mistake. This is not ok.
The next day at practice, three of the boys began to tell my son that “he is dog water” which I guess is the new douche canoe way of saying “you suck”. I can’t imagine where these kids got the idea to target my son. I also hate to be the arbiter of the truth- but we aren’t 0-5 because only my son is dog water.
I went to speak to the coach. The best part was that the coach didn’t even notice it happened because he said it didn’t really matter who took the kick. He hadn’t even told the other boy to take it. The coach acknowledged that this is supposed to be fun and a time for them to grow. He ensured me he was going to handle speaking to the parents, particularly this one parent. He did. I’m really looking forward to the tournament this weekend (pray for us).
My point in sharing this is not for you to feel bad for my son. My son is the kid who has an ego so big he strolls off the bench and believes the penalty kick is for him. He is going to survive this. My point is to open up a bigger conversation about our behavior as parents.
When I sign up my kids to be on a team, my understanding is that I am entrusting the coach to take the lead in teaching my kid about the game, skills, and teamwork. I am not there to question the coach, judge the other kids, or criticize my own child relentlessly while they are trying to learn to play the game. I want my kids in sports to learn valuable life lessons and have fun. I’m not plotting their professional careers.
I looked it up while about 1.5% of all high school players will make it into NCAA college play, less than 0.2% will be drafted into the pros. In total, this reflects roughly only 1 in every 520 high school players will go pro. In fact studies have shown that pushing your kid into sports and putting all this pressure only leads to depression and discord.
“It’s that love of sports, that drives kids to keep playing and to become successful — not just their parents’ dreams.”Tom Farrey, the director of the Sports and Society Program at the Aspen Institute and author of Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children
We are the example. We need to do better. If you aren’t cheering on ALL the kids. If you aren’t there for the ups and downs of watching kids learn how to work together and figure out how to improve their skills then maybe you should stay home or look into meditation. Either way you need to chill out. It’s 7 year old soccer.