details to follow, some father’s day huh?
Ok I’ve had a moment to cool down a little so allow me to give you an overview on the situation and please let me know what you think.
First, its important to note that I had my daughter’s coach on the show this morning. We had a great talk about parental behavior and how to act at a game, etc. Great show…you should have tuned in.
We were playing another westchester-based team this particular day. Anyway, our team is VERY good and hasn’t lost a game all season and because we’re so good, teams literally gun for us and this day, the opposing team’s parents went so far as to admit it. This didn’t bother me because I find that to be a compliment. Anyway, we go up 1-0 and the other team is playing very well. They tie the game and some of our parents get a little anxious and so the cheering gets louder and intensity begins to fill the air. Our opponents score on a terrific goal and unfortunately the goal gets ruined when the father of the girl who scored ran onto the field with his fist in the air and literally ran right in front of our parent group antagonizing us.
At this point, my experience tells me clearly that things are taking a turn south. I just knew that the sidelines were going to heat up. Anyway, we inevitably score the tying goal and of course, our parents go nuts. We are all enthusiastic parents but this guy made it personal and our parents reacted in kind. The guy who did his endzone dance for us just sat there with his arms folded almost realizing he never should have opened that can of worms.
Anyway, we go on to score the go ahead goal and we add another one for good measure.
Ok, here’s where things get interesting.
My daughter Nikki was having a very good defensive game and at a critical point in the final minutes of the game,she steps in front of a throw in and intercepts it. As she starts down the field, the girl behind her literally grabs her by the neck and throws her to the ground. The ref had been letting some physical play slide for most of the game and seeing my girl get thrown the way she did prompted me to say something to the ref about taking control of the game. Play was stopped so I went over to my daughter. I didn’t enter the field of play but i went over to her on the sideline and waited for the coach to come over. Nikki looked at me crying but said she was ok and that i should leave (she’s a tough little cookie). Well that was my cue, so I simply went back to the sideline where i belonged. At this point, fist pumping daddy decided to tell me to relax and that the girls were “just having fun”. I calmly asked him how much fun his girl would have if she was thrown to the ground by her neck and I went on my way…point made, right?
Shortly after that I was told that the father of the girl who pulled Nikki down told his girl that she “did nothing wrong”. HUH?????
This got me fuming but i remained calm.
We obviously won the game but after the game I see this fat slob wearing a cute little pink shirt walking over to me making constant eye contact from across the field. Someone informs me that this is the girl’s father. I know what’s coming so as soon as this loser is close enough for me to address him without yelling, i simply tell him, “turn and walk away. You and i are not gonna do this in front of kids…we’re not even gonna talk about it.” Pretty clear, wouldn’t you agree?
He then informs me that if i don’t talk to him, I’m going to listen to him. It’s as if he really wanted me to blast his teeth through the back of his head so what do i do? Anyone wanna guess? WRONG!! I walk away and make sure I announce to everyone that I’m walking away. His next response is what put me over the top. He tried convincing me that i owed his daughter an apology…an apology? Gee, I’m so sorry your daughter pulled my girl to the ground by her neck, can you ever forgive me?
While every bit of me wanted to give this fat disgrace a good old fashioned beat down, i wasn’t in the mood to throw away my radio show and speaking engagements so I yelled at him a bit and specifically told one of the opposing parents to get him away from my vicinity.
Thankfully enough, the parents who were there complied and escorted the moron in question away from me.
Unfortunately I’m torn? Part of me is left here feeling like a wuss for not giving fat boy the lesson he so richly deserved but a bigger part of me feels pretty good that in front of my kids, I was able to control myself in a situation where most folks would surely excuse me for breaking a few rules (along with a fat guy’s nose)
Anyway, please let me know if you have any questions and let me know what you think about the way I conducted myself.
Coach Tony from some years back might have ended up in jail or in one of the posts i give you guys here on this blog.
I will say Tony, if your story is accurate, you did the right thing.
As much as you wanted to ground this guy,we as parents need to be a role model. This guy was just taunting you so you would look bad, but you did the right thing by ignoring him and keeping cool and asking for another parent to get involved. Just by doing that you come out way ahead, and you look like a winner. We are not 18 anymore and we must control our emotions. I was at my 9 years old soccer game in port chester on sunday and we had a similar event with some crazy screaming mothers and a card happy ref. The friction that was felt as we left that game after winning was immense. The parents on the sidelines need to control themselves nd not get caught up in their childrens games. I know it was extremely hard for you to control your emoitions, thoughts and words after seeing your daughter being grabbed and thrown to the ground. You did the right thing. After all this is not a boxing match in a ring, this is/should be a competitive game that our children enjoy and want to excel in. You should be receiving the appology.
Sounds like you handled that part of it as well as could be expected, but based on the rest of your story both sides of parents need to get some perspective.
I was there and witnessed the entire event from start to finish. I must admit that I was one of the parents that participated in the loud / positive encouragement on sidelines. My daughter Gabriella is also on the team, it was our last game of the season and as a parent wanted to finish strong and go undefeated……. needless to say we did.
Your play by play is absolutely dead on accurate. The other team’s parents were discussing (during the game)the fact that their team,”came to play and wants to win and break undeafeated streak”. Anyway, as the family of parents from our team progressively cheered and supported their team, the opposing parents became disturbed at our enthusiasm. When the score was tied @1-1, they scored the go ahead goal, then one of their parents diliberatetly CROSSED THE SIDELINE ONTO THE FIELD AND YELLED WITH HIS HANDS IN THE AIR – LOOKING AT OUR PARENTS. Hey big guy were you proud of yourself, better yet were the other parents relieved that Mr. 6’10” came to the rescue???
This inconceivable, discerning act was unhealthy, bad sportsmanship and just inappropriate….. of course emotions ran high. He took the intiative to provoke us all!!
Bottom line is – maybe all the parents got a little too excited, game ended and it was a great victory and season for us, the girls and their coaches. The inflated drama on the sidelines ineviteably is a distraction to all the players on the field. The other team did come to play and should be very proud of themselves, they all showed great heart on a very hot day.
Lastly, as a coach in town for the last four years, I have never seen an incident as distorted as what occured after game. Nikki played her heart out, made a great play with minutes to go in the game, an opposing player throws her down. She was temporarily injured, but shakes it off, her father- Tony with deep concern goes to her but remains on sidelines and barks at ref to take better control of game. I am not confident that I would have been able display same self control….. the games ends and the fat slob father confronts Tony and commisions him to apologize because his daughter who committed the flagrant foul against Nikki is upset???
How can the father of a player who committed a foul against another player expect an apology??
These girls are almost 10 years old, kids have to learn from life’s learning experiences….. players are going to get hurt- both physically and emotionally, this father should stop insulating his daughter and allow this to be a learing lesson.
Tony, this disgraceful-moron wanted to provoke you to look like a hero in front of the defeated team and his family…. instead he embarassed himself. Your greatest revenge was not the satisfaction of blasting him (althogh he deserved it); but to upstage him with dignity and class as you exhibited and our VICTORY!!
All the Best
glad you posted, nice to know I’m not crazy.
By the way, I think the coach who comes on and gives me the best overall response will be the guest on this week’s show. Sorry, Somers Gang but you guys are ruled out because you were there 🙂
I think I need a hug!
If you want to be a role model for your daughter you have to act the way you want her to act. I think you did everything right except call him a fat slob. He deserved it in every way but you wouldn’t want your daughter calling his daughter a fat slob so you cannot model that behavior. As you get older values change. I’m embarrassed to even hear the reactions of the opposing teams parents. People need to realize at the age of 9 sportsmanship and morals are more important than competitiveness even if the competitiveness comes from a parent. Most of the parents that act this way are former athletes who have not lost their competitiveness but have lost their talent. Their need to feel competitive is now driven through their children. It’s a shame and is extremely embarrassing. One thing we all need to remember is that what makes a great competitor is not what makes a great fan. A great fan cheers with emotion a great player plays with composure. When these two things mix it gets confusing.
Very well stated. Please allow me to be clear. The derogatory comments you read in my post are the result of my frustrations while I was blowing off steam.
At no point did I address this fat slob as a fat slob 🙂
That would have accomplished 2 things
First, it would make me not much better than him and second, it would have ensured the physical altercation I was making sure I avoided.
So far Coach Rob is the lead for a guest appearance on the show this week but I want to get some opinions as to the fine line between being an enthusiastic parent who really gets into the game and being the parent who crosses the line and does something stupid.
Why does this happen and how can we control it?
Thanks again Rob.
Let me preface this by saying that I am not yet a father, and cannot honestly predict what I would have done in that situation were I you. So I’ll start by saying that the need for fisticuffs ended when I was eleven.
On principal, I see no reason why two grown men/women or any pairing thereof have to come to blows (or even the threat of such) over anything short of immediate bodily harm to self or a loved one. In this case, the horse-collaring of your daughter should not be tolerated, but that is an argument for the referee, not the opposing parent. Granted, this guy took the fight to you so…
In sum, your instinct was sound: walk away. Kids play the game, so as your blog so appropriately puts, let them play. Your daughter’s choice was to tough it out and send you back to the stands. That was her choice, and you respected it. The other girl’s choice was to be upset (allegedly), but I guarantee she didn’t ask her father to confront you. That was his choice, and by doing so, he injected himself into a situation neither of you belonged and missed an opportunity to show his daughter that the game is the game and we leave it behind when we leave the field.
In the end, I’d imagine even you’re a little embarrassed that you had to dress-down another father in public at a youth soccer game. That’s something nobody wants. As a former teacher, I believe the greatest examples we can set come when we would have been perfectly justified in “breaking the rules”, as you say.
Having a temper myself, I know it is significantly harder to walk away or keep quiet than it is to explode, so any feelings of “wussitude” should be tempered by that. Objectively, I’m disappointed you still had to get into it verbally, but proud of the fact that you were able to keep your composure and keep a situation that you didn’t ask for from escalating.
On this day, you became the story. Kudos for making sure it had an appropriately-rated ending.
For someone without a kid, I think you did a great job of getting on point. Had I been given a little lead time to rehearse for that situation, perhaps I might have handled it perfectly (which I know I did NOT)
However, as the “magic 24 hour period” has almost passed, I am becoming more comfortable with my “wussitude” as you put it (excellent term by the way).
I think my frustration escalated much more when I realized that this guy did indeed have a chance to teach his kid a life lesson. Instead, he chose to instill more of what we need less of… a sense of entitlement in his kid. To directly or indirectly send the message to his kid that she did nothing wrong is just coddling and moronic. Hid kid DID do something wrong…something VERY wrong.
had it been my child, I would have made sure she helped the other girl up and apologize to her AND to her parents. Making my kid feel safe and secure after a violent act would make me to idiot. Kids make mistakes, even really bad ones. Our job as parents is to correct these mistakes and make our kids better people.
Again, I think it’s important to note that while I used some colorful examples while telling the story, at no point did I insult this guy nor did I literally suggest anyone rent a U-Haul to drag him away. I simply use humor to illustrate a point every now and again.
At no point did I use any profanity nor make any insults, with the possible exception of telling him how stupid it was that he was expecting an apology.
These are some terrific responses and I hope you keep them coming. You should think about a career outside of PR and start coaching 🙂
I want this topic to remain in the public forum and on this blog. However, the emails and phone calls are pouring in and something important came up that deserves to be addressed.
At no time whatsoever, did any of the shenanigans that took place involve any of the coaches from our team or the other. In fact, at the peak of the nonsense, the Coach from Lewisboro came over to the situation and seemed truly embarrassed by what was going on. He and i made brief eye contact and I could tell from his demeanor that he wanted nothing more than for this to simply end and so I commend him for that. The coaches on our side as well did a very good job of staying objective and doing their best to make sure that no parent would take anything away from the terrific game that was being played.
In other words, what happened here is a classic case of parents getting involved too much and almost ruining it for the kids. This clearly is no reflection on the soccer programs of either side in this case. It is merely a reflection of us as sports parents.
You and the rest of the parents did the right thing! I wasn’t there but I have been before. These situations go beyond the game and the kids, which is why we are there in the first place.
As we learn, soccer is a very passionate sport, but it was girls soccer not the world cup.
Again you did the right thing and your teams parents did the right thing.
Next time carry those noisy noise makers that that they use at the world cup, that is a good way to get back at that parent.
A very tough situation for anyone to be put in. Its tough enough to try and keep a level head when emotions get high between parents at sporting events but when adding in when its your own child at the recieving end of some foul or really aggressive physical play it pushes us all to a boiling point. In a perfect world the little girl who fouled your daughter should have gone and tried to help her up and apoligize right away. In a perfect world she would have taken it upon herself after the game to seek out your daughter and apoligize. In a perfect world her father would have stepped up and gone over to and your daughter and apoligized after the game and make sure everyone was ok. It was a perfect oppurtunity for the father to talk to his daughter about the fine line of competing and going over the line when frustrated. It would have de-escalated the whole situation and left everyone feeling alot better about the game. NONE of that happened.
Trying to look for satisfaction from this father at this time is pointless. I have no doubt that he did not see and will never see the takedown of your daughter as anything other than his daughter competing. He was more concerned about how his daughter reacted to the commotion of the takedown than the takedown itself. You did the right thing by walking away. NOTHING good would have come of the confrontation. NOTHING.
The loud positive cheering that you see as a part of how the parents react obviously is not looked upon the same way by some of your opponents. As long as it is SOLELY directed at your own players,there is nothing wrong with it in my eyes. Yet obviously it played a small part of what antagonized the escalation of events.Be grateful that your daughter was not hurt seriously. That you did not get involved in a physical altercation with the other father and it gave you a blueprint of how things can get so crazy so fast at these games. I doubt the father at the center of this is EVER going to see the light of how wrong his actions were. Hopefully it might make other fathers caught up in the same exact situation take pause…and may calmer and morelevel headed thinking prevail.
At this point, now 48 hours later, I think there are some reflections worth sharing.
First off, I don’t think that we as a group of parents acted perfectly. If I had to be critical, I would say this. While I completely understand the parents reacting to “pumping fist daddy”, if we all had a chance to rehearse for the situation, I bet we would have simply enjoyed the goal and merely celebrated amongst ourselves.
Also, the angst I felt by suppressing my anger towards this moron was so strong at the time and I think it was because of my ego and macho. This morning I feel very differently about it. While the guy is still a moron in my mind, I look back and actually wish I was even more calm when I addressed him. Staying calm just makes the other guy look like a bigger dope. I guess when becoming threatened, our first reaction is to show that we’re tough and that we’re not going to be bullied.
I personally have learned a tremendous lesson from all this and it will impact me greatly moving forward.
There are other factors that are coming to me through calls and emails and these will certainly add to the show. First, the ref in this game was basically a child. Do you think that these teenage refs are capable of controlling a game that is getting too physical? Are they capable of controlling a crowd of parents that are getting a little too emotional? With the fees that we pay to travel programs, should we expect to have certified adult refs at the games for cases like this?
Lemme know what you think.
Having played with you in the days when you most certainly would have welcomed the physical confrontation, I commend you for avoiding it. You’ve come a long way. 🙂
However, being a coach/manager for the past 10 years, one thing I always stress to the parents of my players is to let the coaches handle any disputes with the umpires/officials — as well as any immediate care for injured players. It is hard for a parent to resist running to their child’s aid, but in almost all cases, the injuries are not serious and the situation is best handled by an objective coach.
By rushing to your daughter and barking at the official, you inserted yourself into a situation in which you had no business. It seems like the whole confrontation never would have occurred if you had let the coach tend to your daughter and bark at the official. I suspect the fact that you were a parent (and not a coach) yelling at the official riled the other side up even more.
The Rotund Rabble Rouser was clearly the “most wrong” in all this… but if you had to do it all over again, don’t you think it would be better to let the coaches handle the situation?
All the Best,
Kevin St. Pierre
Well said and from someone who was not there, I completely agree with what you say.
Just to clarify, i did not run over to her. I ran over to that part of the sideline and made sure the coach was on his way. Having said that, my daughter has had many minor injuries while playing. In her short but brief career, there have been only two times when I ran over to her general vicinity. One was when she hit the gym floor and got a concussion and Sunday was the other.
Please trust me when I say, if you saw the way she was violently pulled to the ground by her neck, you’d be shocked that she wasn’t hurt much more badly. Granted, I chalk it up to parental reaction as it pertains to the ref but dude, this was a BIG deal. This was a clear example of a young ref who failed to take control of a game that was getting too physical and unfortunately my girl paid the price. It’s kind of tough to stay really objective when it’s your own kid and you truly fear for her safety in the heat of the moment.
And yes, as someone who was side by side with me traveling the country during my “a-hole days” you can clearly imagine how the Tony from long ago could very well have ended up on the evening news instead of a radio program 🙂
Excellent thoughts and I hope you listen in and call the show Sunday.
This will be short since many have commented in a manner that I would support. First, I think you are aware that my daughter played soccer as her sport of choice, just like yours. She played from club, through high school, and on into college. The situation you pose, and were involved in, is one of the motivating factors behind why I wrote, and am seeking publication for, “Becoming a True Champion.”
I cannot tell you the number of times I have seen situations, exactly as you describe, occur on the soccer pitch. I have been witness to parents screaming at the ref, at each other, at kids on the field, and even, almost, physical confrontations between a coach and a parent over player position. I’ve even seen the normal “great job” type of cheering turn into the more “demeaning” type of cheering that you describe in your recanting of the situation.
As a former athlete, coach, and parent of college athletes, it was, and is, very disconcerting to see this type of behavior.
All that said, I know how difficult it can be when your child is unfairly treated – with the possibility of her safety at stake, to keep emotionally stable. With how my oldest played the game, with reckless abandon, it is inevitable that I would also be placed in a situation where I thought my child’s safety was at stake. Tough thing for sure. My take was always to make sure she was Ok through just observation of her body language and stay calm, which, as difficult as it might have been, I did. I was witness to my daughters torn ACL, standing only feet away when it happened, and badly injured ankle after a collision with the goalie that took over a year to rehabilitate before she entered the college game. It is a difficult thing to stay calm and stay off the field, especially with your wife encouraging you to go out there and see if she is OK.
To watch another girl basically attack (retaliate against) my daughter for some reason was just as tough, but it happened all the time. And as they got older it happened more often because of her aggressive, but fair, play.
As parents it is important (no matter how hard it may be) to not become emotionally involved, to do as you described and walk away. The only suggestion I would have, something I had to discipline myself to do, is to move away from the “loud” crowd (especially as they get louder and/or demeaning), stay more reserved in your excitement at games – cheering for the team for good things, staying calm for bad things, and complimenting the positive and skilled play of the opposition – something I did all the time. And to never, ever yell at the ref. Part of the learning that an athlete gains through competition is being able to adapt to the “unfairness” of the game. And yes, at times, the referee makes mistakes too. If a game is getting out of hand, it is the coaches on the sidelines job to get the ref’s head into the game, not us as parents.
Congratulations on not letting this get out of hand; it would have been a terrible situation if you didn’t. The kind you read about in the paper and scratch your head in wonderment about.
“The bigger man is the one who sees the “bigger” picture and behaves accordingly based on that vision.”
Oh well, I guess I failed at keeping this short, sorry. This is a very hot topic for me. One which I write and talk about regularly, and one that I have a good deal of connection with – from all sides of the spectrum (athlete, coach, parent, teacher).
I hear ya on your response, and God knows I’ve had to really restrain myself when my kids are involved… But as a parent, I think it’s always best to NEVER say a word to the officials.
After the post-er after me (Kirk) and I each pointed out that parents should never bark at the officials, I wondered if it is a bigger problem in soccer than other sports, as parents often sit or stand right on the sidelines.
Perhaps something can be done logistically to make youth soccer more like baseball and basketball, where parents are typically further away — and often restricted — from the field of play (“in the stands”) and have less access to officials and players, which is a good thing.
Terrific point. Very interesting to look at it that way.
What do you folks think about parents and spectators being so close to the field?
It must have some sort of impact on things, don’t you agree?
Kevin, hope you call in to discuss this on the show.
Took me a while to post and though I initially was going to comment on the event itself, it seems you are now moving toward the question of parental access to officials. We are a family of football and baseball kids – still at the youth level. Though there may be a bit more space, and in the case of baseball, actual backstops/fences/dugouts between parents and umpires, I do not see any difference in the level of parental abuse. If parents are close enough to be heard, and they are that type, then they wll sound off. And that includes confronting officials, coaches and other parents. And as long as we keep allowing the few who can’t behave properly to return without punishment, it will continue.
As for the game itself, I was not there. I trust the events occurred as you described, and other than perhaps addressing your concerns with the coach and allowing the coach to address the official (as others have posted before me) I think you acted responsibly, though if your kids are reading this post they now know that daddy thinks the other guy was a “fat slob” and a “moron”, and that calling him names is an ok response to his actions. 🙂
Just curious since I did not see it anywhere: how old was the “young official?” One of the problems we often see is that at the games with younger players, the officials are kids themselves. They don’t know how to control a game, or how to address aggressive parents on the sidelines.
How about trying to get the other side of the story on your show? Maybe the other coach wants to appear?
One thing (and I think coaches like it) is that at a soccer game, the coaches are typically on the other side of the field completely. So, while the parents are potentially too close to the officials, there may be an argument that the parents are potentially too far away from the coaches.
As I mentioned, when I ran over to see if my daughter was OK, I had to look over to make sure the coach was coming over. I didn’t think about it until now but it’s an interesting dynamic.
As for the other coach coming on the show, I’d actually love to have him on and I’m trying to see if it can be done objectively or if it just opens up a can of worms.
Great thoughts and thanks for contributing.
I have been involved, first as a parent, and then as a coach for the past 10 years in travel soccer. The U9-U11 games generally have 1 ref who is anywhere from 12-16 years old. At the very early ages (U8 or U9), it is usually the youngest most inexperienced ref that gets those games. Their training is an 8 hour course. Many play themselves and think they “Know” the game. Most do not take charge of the field. They don’t have the knowledge to see “beyond” the moment and as a result slight pushing turns into elbows, tripping, slide tackling and before you know it full out wrestling that Vince McMann from the WWF would want to put on pay per view. By the time they try to get control of the game it’s too late. In Somers, these young refs must spend a season as an assistant or side ref, doing the flag and watching how more experienced refs call a game. Over time we will see if this helps.
Having said that, there are some clubs that actually train the kids how to “foul” the right way and not get caught. This season an extremely talented sophomore came close to having his career ended by a thug who actually stomped on his knee when he was down. Damage to his MCL, ACL, PCL and a broken Tibia was the result. The ref, an older more experienced ref, had already warned this player 3 times about dangerous play, but did not even give a yellow card after our player was carried from the field. This happened 2 months ago and the player is thankfully beginning PT for this injury. Good coaches would stop this behavior that is unless they are teaching it. For this Ossining team in the High School division, it is apparent that the coach condones that type of dirty play.
There are aggressive plays that many parents get excited about. Often yelling “foul” when they are clean plays. Sometimes parents can’t tell the difference. Last time I checked a horse collar takedown was not a clean play. I’ve been to a boys U14 game where the ref, an older man, let play go one to the point that I thought I heard someone yell “warriors come out and play.” It is the first time I ever saw a ref “call time” to stop play. He had both teams and coaches come to the middle of the field and finally got back some control of the game. A younger ref will never have the ability to do that.
In your case, name calling in your blog aside, you handled this the way a responsible adult would. It is obvious that the parent approaching you has no clue. Rather than search you out, he should have been talking to his kid about why it is not appropriate to play dirty. He should have had to wait until her coach finished telling the team the same concept. The fact that he is more concerned that YOU apologize scares me to think of what this player will feel is appropriate when she is in high school.
The underlying concept here is the same as your other articles. Bad coaching leads to unsportsmanlike play. Bad officiating escalates minor fouls into major confrontations. Parents of both sides feel the ref or the other side has wronged them take matters into their own hands. Everyone needs to step back and realize this is youth sports not the Olympics. (Not that it is appropriate behavior at that level either.) The kids should be able to play, learn and have fun in an organized and safe environment. Many kids forget what “issues” there were by the time they finish shaking hands. It is the parents that carry this baggage to the next game.
very well said.
Who knows, perhaps this other team has an “Elizabeth Lambert” in the making.
Anyone remember that post? If not, look it up here on the blog and check out the video. It will make you sick.
The points that Eric raises regarding unsportsmanlike play, refs not properly managing the game, and lack of correcting “bad” behavior by both parents and coaches is not necessarily the norm, but it happens all to often. And it is not just in soccer but all sports, and at all levels.
It is this loss of perspective on what healthy character building sports participation is supposed to be about that is most concerning. It is what happens when “winning” becomes the #1 priority over and above anything else, and the end result is what we are seeing as headlines in the “News” at the upper most levels in professional sports. They are simply a reflection of a sports culture that has lost track of what is important
and needless to say, no matter how many parents and coaches want to do it “the right way”, all it takes is one parent or coach at a game to slip into “Look how great we are” mode and the entire environment goes down the dumper.
We’ve been inundated with stories about bad parental behavior, yours is just the latest, and I get the sense that some believe we’d all be better off if we simply kept parents away from the field of play. Is anyone (but me) concerned that by muzzling ALL parents and keeping spectators at bay, we may be leaving the back door open for allowing unruly (and unfit) parents to insert themselves as coaches and take advantage of (and exploit) the freedom that comes with minimizing parental involvement at games? This thought may seem radical and, frankly, offensive, to some who frequent this site, but it’s something to think about. The focus should be on keeping unfit parents at bay, not necessarily “all” parents.
Case in point – the Thomas Junta episode at a Massachusetts hockey practice about 10 years ago. Now, let me be clear, I am NOT (I repeat NOT) justifying the murder of a coach, and Junta clearly lost his head and went WAYYYYY over the line; however, from what I’ve read (and heard – I have a lot of contacts up there – GO SOX), he was far from the prototypical out-of-control hockey parent. The Junta situation occurred because the coach was allowing and (I believe) encouraging his son and 1 or 2 of his son’s friends to bully Junta’s son during a hockey practice. Junta came down to the glass and yelled at the coach to knock it off, and the coach laughed it off and continued to encourage the bullying. Seeing his son being bullied, Junta lost it and the rest is in the papers (for those who are unaware, Junta beat the coach to death in the rink). I hope that no one thinks Junta should have sat quietly while witnessing this, he clearly had a responsibility to act (obviously, not in the way he did). It’s just as clear that this coach had no business supervising young kids.
You may think I’m missing the point, it wasn’t the opposing coach who acted badly in your case, it was an opposing parent… Was it? I understand that the other team’s coach came up to you afterwards and seemed embarrassed about the episode, but, how involved was he in prompting his team to “gun” for your girls and how was the message delivered? When the girl did that to Nikki, did the opposing coach do anything or did he just observe with tacit approval? Maybe if the coach took the lead to “teach” his player that the take down was dirty, the girl’s parent would have acted differently. In your situation, had the opposing coach showed some leadership in talking to Mr. Goal Dancer and/or Mr. Pink Shirt, maybe things would have turned out differently.
If we totally neuter all parents, coaches will be entitled to act with impunity and bad parents, cheering for a team with a bad coach, will run wild. We’ve come to a point where it’s now deemed “politically correct” to sit quietly on the sidelines, but is it right for parents to sit idly by and watch while a 16-year old ref allows 10-year olds run around and hurt each other, at times, at the direction of an irresponsible coach? Should parents sit in the stands while a baseball coach continues a practice with lightning flashing in the background? I read the post above from Kevin above where he criticized you for checking on your daughter during the injury, and, while I realize that it’s an AYSO rule and many leagues expect parents to stay away and let coaches handle injuries, I think the rule (and the criticism) is crazy. If my daughter appears seriously hurt during a game, I’m taking charge – period. I’m not leaving her fate to some guy who spent 4 hours listening to a speech for the league’s insurance company. (As for barking at the official, that’s another matter – that should probably be funneled through the coach.)
Rather than focus on moving the parents farther away from the field, maybe the problem is that the power to make (and enforce) rules is in the hands of too few (the small group of adults who run the league), and we need more collective buy-in to, and responsibility for, behavioral standards. Rather than place all the responsibility for behavior in the hands of the coach or a commissioner – where there may be bad eggs and, quite frankly, they have no real power to enforce in a public park (trust me, I learned this first hand) – we should consider a “council of parents” and make it the joint responsibility of coaches, administrators and parents to police everyone. I’m not advocating a system whereby every parent should be entitled to direct the coach or yell at a ref, but we need to think about collective enforcement of standards where there are checks and balances all around. Maybe it’s time for proactive parent field “marshals” at each game, who are in charge of reminding parents of the principles they all agreed to, etc. Similarly, if a game gets out of hand, any one of an official, a coach or a parent “field marshal” can call a conference and remind all sides that this is not the way the game is to be played – hey, none of the other ideas seem to be working very well.
This is a problem that exists in our society, it’s not limited to a soccer pitch or baseball diamond. Unless we find some way for coaches, parents, umpires, town officials, etc. to band together and fix it, collectively, we’ll continue to read stories like the unfortunate one you had to post. Unless and until we can create an environment whereby peer pressure dictates responsible behavior, things won’t change.
I nominate Chuck Norris for “Field Marshal” 🙂
Seriously, assigning civilians the responsibility of policing behavior will lead to even more confrontations.
It sounds like Arlington has had a number of bad expereinces with coaches. I have found that the vast majority of those who volunteer their time to coach are good men and women who act in the best interest of the kids. I cannot say that about the vast majority of parents I know.
And there is a name for an environment where peer pressure dictates responsible behavior: Utopia. Good luck with that. Until we get there, we need workable, practical solutions.
Restricting parents’ access to officials is workable and practical. Field Marshals and Finding Utopia are not.
If you need Chuck Norris, you’ve already lost. The point is that you can’t have one or two civilians police behavior – that’s why the current systems do not work. You need to engage the community as a whole – including parents (or “civilians” as you call them), coaches and town officials (if possible) – in an effort to agree on principles, then assign collective responsibility to all groups in order to encourage responsible behavior. Most of the clowns out there seek attention and the approval of others (see peer pressure – below). That fits right in to Coach Tony’s story – each set of parents tried to out do the other, there was no rational check on what was going on, then some clown runs out on the field for a dance/fist pump/whatever because he thinks that his peers will think it’s great – they probably did.
You may think that I’ve had a number of bad experiences with coaches, but nothing could be further from the truth. Knock on wood; my kid has had great experiences with coaches, and not a single bad one. I agree that the vast majority of people (like myself) who volunteer their time have the kids’ best interests at heart, but “vast majority” is still less than 100%.
Do you seriously think that Utopia is the only place where peer pressure dictates responsible behavior? I think it’s pretty clear to most people that peer pressure can have both positive and negative effects. Will it be easy? No. Will it take time? Yes. If we succeed, will it be better than what we have? Yes.
Aside from keeping parents away from the field altogether, the 2 approaches (yours and mine) are not mutually exclusive. Coaches coach, parents cheer in a positive way, no barking at officials, etc. (I still don’t get your last line about “restricting parents’ access to officials” – of course I agree with that.) However, add to that a community initiative where all groups come together and agree on standards for behavior and then pledge to uphold them. Take a page from the PTA and call it the PCA (Parent Coaches Association), where parents and coaches can discuss the direction of the program, on field/off field matters and other things and have everyone take some responsibility for making it work. Let’s lose the “us” versus “them” attitude and engage the parents so they actually see how difficult it is to run a program (or to deal with certain parents). How can it hurt?
I’m very impressed with the various offshoot topics that have come out of this story. That’s why this will be the basis of this weeks show b
Please be sure to call in so we can debate these different points. Sunday at 9 am eastern on AM1230 WFAS or listen online at http://www.wfasam.com
The studio line is 914-693-5700.
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