Monday, May 19, 2008

Bad Parenting/Bad Coaching

I'm not sure how this is going to come off, so I'll just tell it and let you decide. Amazingly enough, this involves little kids—not high school or college age. These are eight-year-old kids. I coach my son's soccer team, and we had a great season last spring, losing to only one team. We lost one of our best players this season and got another who has never played and can't really run, shoot, dribble or pass, so I expected that this would be a lesson to the kids in "you win some, you lose some." And that has turned out to be the case.

Realize before I go any further that I probably know every kid that plays on every team since I have been volunteering at my son's school for in-school class assistance and at recess, and I have been coaching since Peewees. The one team we lost to last season went undefeated. The coach is very good, but she is also in charge of the league, and has the authority to move kids from one team to another. So what she does when she has a player of similar skill sets to the boy that joined my team this season, she finds a reason to cut him or her. Two seasons ago, she got rid of a sweet girl because she got in a fight with one of the other players. One season ago, she was "told" that my team was too strong, so she gave me one of hers. Then, stunningly, she was winning every game, and rubbing it in after each one, bragging about her strategy and her coaching style.

So by a miracle this season, two of my less-skilled players didn't make the game that we played her team, so I never had to sub out my stars, and we beat her by a single goal. When I went over to her sideline, I explained that it was unfortunate timing for her that our team was stacked the way it was. In other words, I was trying to be gracious. She cut me off and asked me what business I had playing a kid in goal for the whole game (we're supposed to switch goalies every quarter) and I told her that nobody wanted to play it but the kid that did. Then she told me my kids were too rough, which is maddening because my kids are constantly reminded about sportsmanship and fair play, even when teams like hers (yes, I said hers) is throwing elbows, pushing and shoving. I gently reminded her of this (I have witnesses that will testify in court that I was saintly in my patience with her), and she said, "I already talked to my kids about it now talk to yours!"

She had one other criticism, which I bore silently. Then I took my kids out for ice cream.

The next week, as in this last weekend, we played Navy Blue. We went down three nothing within minutes and I thought we were goners, but the kids rallied to tie it up at half. Navy Blue went up again, and again we tied. Now all game, two or three of their kids were elbowing and pushing. But worst, which is illegal at this level in our league, they were slide-tackling, knocking our kids on their faces. The ref was just a passive kid, and I should have protested before it got out of hand, which it was about to. Our star forward took a cleat in the thigh. He buckled over and lay in the fetal position crying. I didn't see who did it or if it was on purpose. I took him out and the game continued. Then, with thirty seconds left in the game, the same kid elbowed my son in the stomach and took the ball down field while my son stumbled forward, arms crossed over his midsection, a couple of other kids of mine looking on concerned. Navy Blue scored and won the game.

It happened so fast that I didn't think to stop the game. The other team celebrated, did the chant and came to shake. I hollered over to the other coaches that they should wait since my kids were in traction.

Kids. Right now I just want to scream. The coaches from the other team didn't even apologize, nor did they seem to think anything untoward had occurred. I wanted to rage at them, but I didn't want to be like that coach I was just describing, even though it would have been justified to do so. They would have just written me off as being just like her, a sore sport and so competitive as to have lost my perspective.

The only thing I told my son after the game is that if another player plays him dirty like that again, to feel free to knock the kid straight on his ass. Because the kid isn't going to learn any lessons from his parents, one of which was his coach, the other looking on from their goal. The only way a kid without any guidance is going to learn sportsmanship is to hear it from the birds whistling around his head. No way am I putting my son in harm's way again by putting a sheep in with a den of wolves. When in Rome…

Anway, I'm pretty steamed right now. Now the team that was undefeated last season, that lost to us this season and to the same Navy Blue we just lost to, wants a rematch. Last season I asked the coach for a rematch to end the season, but a parent from my team said that it might be putting too much pressure on the kids, so I told the team's coach I had made a mistake. She curtly told me she wasn't going to do it anyway. With roles reversed, she didn't bother to ask me this season; she simply used her scheduling authority to make it so, under the political guise of "keeping it competitive."

We're talking about kids, aren't we? Or is this a staging ground for the egos of frustrated parents. I think I realized the latter was my own case last season and had the fortitude to recognize it and keep it fun. But now what do I do?

Should I refuse?


Alan said...

"The only way a kid without any guidance is going to learn sportsmanship is to hear it from the birds whistling around his head."

Scott, that is just so effing, bare-knuckled, masculinely funny.

Of course this is about the parents' egos, as you surmise. As long as the parents are calling all the shots, then its about them. Hasn't it always been? If you can manage to insure that your kids are having fun while the parents are getting their jollies too, then carry on!

If you should refuse the rematch? Hells YES. Use the exact same excuse used on you last year, and tell it to Coachzilla's face. If your kids are getting hurt then completely and utterly eff them and their rematches. Remember, the kids are supposed to be having fun, not hospitalized.


Scott said...

Coachzilla. Good one! Coachzilla's team doen't play nearly as rough as the Navy team. I can reasonably expect a clean game from her. What worries me is that my kids were so proud of beating her juggernauts, and a repeat of that victory is unlikely. I feel I might be consenting to something that will take away even that tasty tidbit from an otherwise disappointing season. And that's the rub, because I'm not supposed to care about winning, but I think that's a misnomer. Everybody cares about winning, it's just to what degree you care, and what you are willing to sacrifce to achieve it. I'm not willing for instance to allow my kids to sucker punch, kick, bite or scratch, or do anything but play a clean game in order to win. And when we lose a fair game I'm all smiles, handshakes and congrats.

Tee said...

I would refuse the rematch. No reason to unnecessarily be around these nasty people.

What happened to playing a game just to play the game? :( ... I really don't get some of these parents. I feel sorry for the children.

Anonymous said...

Not sure how to the handle the rematch, but these other coaches are serious losers. Moving kids around to stack the team? Dirty play?

People complain about how kids are today, but that's not the problem at all. The failure is in parents today.

Sorry you and the team have to suffer through the nonsense.

Beth said...

NO NO NO NO NO WAY! This is not my ego talking. There should be no rematch. Your kids won and they should take that win and feel good about it. Her ego wants the rematch, as yours did last season.

Why do so many parents and coaches get emotionally/egoically involved in these events? Those parents that scream at their children and at the team ... coaches that do the same. I hate that shit.

Oh, Scott, I hope you refuse!

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

I certainly agree on the parents egos thing. I've seen enough parents gettting more riled up than the kids out on the field.

In other matters, I am currently sat under a pavilion in a campsite in Middleboro, Massachusetts, hoping that you will contact me about a meet up in Boston, or wherever suits you. I know it's short notice, but I was hoping to get together with you in the next few days if possible.

Email me at the address under my profile pic on my blog.

See you soon. I hope!

Alan said...

*jealous of Ultra Toast Mosha God*

I agree with Beth. If games weren't meant to be won, there'd be no scorekeeping. Your kids won, they felt good, they should stay that way.

If you want to approach it with the manly integrity that I know you for, you can state your case succinctly. "Coachzilla, you have a great team and my guys played their asses off to beat you. I think I'd just be setting them up for a failure that they don't deserve if we were to give you a rematch. So, respectfully, I'm going to have to decline. They deserve this moment and I'm going to let them have it."

Or you can tell her to eff herself. I think either one would work just as well. :-))

Donna said...

I could sit here a give you a long story about the unfairness of it all?..I won't....LOL...but I Will tell you this...DOCUMENT!!!...Have the video camera running. If You can't do it, get a friend to do it. That'll shut 'em up!! Good luck!!

Dixie Belle said...

Reading this brought back old memories of Little League. Eeek!
Since you have a choice, I'd say no to the rematch. She needs to get a life.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...


It was more than a pleasure meeting you last night. The data input you wanted reminding about was:

1) Red Dwarf books - Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers and Better Than Life.

2) The amusing tongue-in-cheek hip hop group were Goldie Lookin Chain.

I can't remember any of the others.

p.s. We got lost on the way home and didn't get to bed until 2am.

Scott said...

Tee - Turns out I can't refuse, and that some of my parents don't care one way or the other, so I am backing down.

Jason - You said a mouthful, brother. It all starts at the top and trickles downhill.

Beth - A bit of gray area there I think. I definitely yell at the kids--not in a mean way, and not punitively. If I see a kid moping around when the opposition is coming straight at him or her, I do my best Foghorn Leghorn, "I say, I say, I say the ball's acomin'"

Alan - I'm going to post how this all played out, but not today. Today I rest.

Donna - That sounds like a lot of work to cover my ass in such a petty world, but I have to admit your idea has merit.

Dixie - This isn't a unique situation by any stretch, but when you hear about it coming from elsewhere you swear it would never happen to you.

Toast! - Good times had by all, I assure you. Patch is one hell of a mate to have on the Great American Roadtrip. As for your recommendations, I've got Red Dwarf 1 coming on Netflix, the book you mention coming from the library, and I'm downloading Goldie Lookin' Chain. I'll get back to you on the lot. As for getting lost, I'm right there with you. New England is confusing. You can be on a road and cross an intersection and be on a completely different road, and that switch can happen every two or three blocks. Mapquest is a nightmare to keep up with here.

Minnesotablue said...

Scott: NO REMATCH! I agree let the kids feel good about their victory and move on. Geez I hate sports parents who don't realize it's just a damn Game