Your Child's Coach prefers to remember what went right
Weeks after we suspended two whole teams because of parental misconduct on our U-12 soccer field, we started seeing some of the same in U-6. Unthinkable, with players as young as 4. You are probably tired of reading here about obnoxious parents. So, instead, I'll tell you what went right at a late-season game between the M&Ms and the Scorpions.
It was 70 degrees with a light breeze, perfect playing conditions. The M&Ms had a full team; the Scorpions had only five players, one arriving late. So technically, the game was a forfeit. But the two coaches agreed to play anyway, fielding comparable sides with their oldest kids in the defense.
I got to see many of the children I have coached in prior seasons: Jaylene and Albert on the Scorpions, Santiago, Caleb and Isabella on the M&Ms. Every child, even the 4-year-olds, was fully engaged, laughing and smiling, and getting touches on the ball. Albert and Caleb, 6-year-olds on opposing sides, played such a skillful defense that the ball rarely left the field. Over and over, I saw them race to the ball in a rubber-legged motion they will put to use as they advance in the sport.
I also saw Jaylene, who is turning 6, do something she has done since she was 4: She ran off the field to hug Mom, who caught a high-flying goal kick. You cannot be in a bad mood around Jaylene. The coaches laughed and smiled throughout. They gave gentle instructions. But mostly, they stood back and watched the kids run and play and learn.
If you have a child in sports, you can easily get disgusted by the adult behavior that you witness every Saturday morning.
Or you can reflect on the benefits -- physical, emotional and developmental -- that occur as Santiago gains focus, Caleb shoots with more precision, Isabella attacks the ball instead of shying away from it, and Albert hears his name called by a cheering crowd. So I will spare you a recounting of who-said-what about those borderline goals (one off a throw-in, the other caught between the legs and on the line).
My 15-year-old daughter was the referee who got an earful at this match and in the one that followed. For her trouble, she earned $16. And, of course, a lesson in human behavior.
-- Marlene Sokol, Times Coach