Having a son has forced my immersion into the world of over competitive sports and jocks. I abhor this. I fought it with the hockey. Not being a hockey fan (I know, as a Canadian I should be hanging my head in shame.), and desperately wanting NO part or affiliation with the the crazy, Hockey Mom and Dad syndrome that turns average, ordinary parents into psychotic, over reactive side board screamers who live in a fantasy world thinking that their child will actually be the next Wayne Gretzky.... I protested hockey for my son. Soccer, Baseball, Tae Kwon Do... anything but hockey. But, Mister said he wanted to play (well perhaps he was coerced - verdict is still out ;)... and I will support my children with whatever they want to do. However, this agreement came with some big obligations from Dan. The deal was that hockey was his baby. I do the gymnastics, soccer, swimming etc, etc... but this one was all his. No stinky change rooms and freeze your butt off cold rinks for this Mom. Lo and behold however... I caught a few practices here and and there and started to warm up to it. (Especially when they practiced in the new rink where I could watch from the warmth of the rec. centre.) This game, league, team... whatever - really focuses on making these children well rounded players. The kids have fun and get great exercise, and to top it off - all the parents had to sign waivers agreeing not to be psychotic.. and they aren't! (At least not yet.)
Fast forward to summer soccer season - my favorite sport that my children play!! This year Mister is in a boys division, where as last year the teams were mixed. Last year (ages 4-5), the focus was for each child to get as much ball time as possible. They all rotated positions and the time on the field was distributed fairly. No score was recorded - the focus was on having fun! Well if I didn't just fall off the fluffy, friendly bleachers into the pit of the epitome sportsmanship hell for a 6 year old - this year. First of all, Mister is in the boys 6-8 yr old league. With a birthday at the end of Oct, this makes him the youngest player on the team. Secondly- unfortunately for him, he got placed in a stacked (Yes, I said stacked - you know it happens, and I have heard numerous stories.) team. I wish I could take a picture of this team in comparison to the other teams - just to show it to you! You know how every class will have an abnormally tall kid? Well strangely enough, this team has every unusually tall kid in this age group in town! And these kids eat and live sports... genetically tall and athletically gifted. Add to that a handful of other athletically gifted children who don't miss out on a single clinic or camp. And then add, Mister - the youngest, the shortest, a genuinely GOOD player... but not aggressive enough to get by these other kids. All of this - I have no qualms with. Stacked team, tall kids, athletic talent - etc. I think it's all fine! BUT... let's add a coach who perhaps is too concerned about the score, and then it gets my skin boiling! To be quite honest, I have not been able to watch a whole lot of his games as I get too worked up. Last Saturday was his first game since June. The game went like this. Mister and another child from his school were subbed out right at the start. Then he got put in as defense. The very next rotation he gets subbed out again. Wait a second. Not even in the second half of the game - there are 8 children. He has had 2 subs along with this other boy, and only 2 other boys have had 1 sub - meaning there are 4 boys who haven't even subbed. The remainder of the game continued this way. By the end of the game, he had had 4 subs while 2 children did not have any! The 2 that did not are the 2 largest, strongest players who always have the ball (and 1 was the coaches son)! Let's add to my blood boiling situation as I watch them coach these children without any encouragement to pass - ever. Just score. No positions were rotated. Mister continually got put in defense and was lucky to get the odd kick in here and there. At one point, after Mister had already spent one rotation out, the coach sent in one boy to relieve the other boy that was subbing. Mister went to go out on the field too... and then stopped short as he realized the coach didn't send anyone to relieve him. Dan looked at me, and must have realized that the crazy caged Mama was about to explode, so he spoke up and told Mister to head out as he had just sat out. The coach caught on (Dan made sure he had heard him) and sent another boy to sit out. This team has never lost a game - but they sure as heck are lacking a great deal of good sportsmanship.
One of the tall boys Mother's was talking to me one day about how other parents get upset when their kids play on his team as he is so tall and strong. She was tall and athletic herself. She was explaining to me how you can get a lot of flack for being the tall one etc... I understand that. But what I should have said is it's one thing to be bigger than the other kids - but it's another when they take advantage of the situation and don't let the other children have an opportunity. Pass the ball!!! If these kids, passed and played as a team - then no one who have a problem!
I don't know if it's a boy/girl thing or is symptomatic of the coaches, but my daughter is in the same league and her games are focused around building skill, learning the game and equal opportunity. The games are very fun to watch!
Please let me clarify, that I am not the Mother of athletically challenged child who just likes to blame their child's lack of success on everyone else. Mister dominated last year, and was very gracious about passing and not stealing another teammates ball. He is a great team player... and can handle the ball quite well when given the opportunity. Last year he would score 1-2 goals a game! This year, he touches the ball 1-2 times a game! And - hence the problem is that I may just jump out of my happy zone one of these games and say something. I bite my tongue every game! I teeter on the edge of being a quiet, courteous parent to being a rabid Mother Pit Bull. I don't want to be THAT Mom. I really don't. I believe that sometimes letting kids tough it out teaches them a lot more than it does to come to their rescue. But darn it - he is 6 and I am paying for him to learn soccer. It breaks my heart when I see the sad look on his face after he has been sat out for the fourth time. It kills me to see him say that he doesn't want to play, when he LOVES soccer! I am also concerned that coaches like this do nothing for the development of the players. It is a team sport and one of the hardest lessons for young children is to play as a team. I will likely try to quietly be a bit more vocal... but in the end, I'll just have to hope that next season greets us with a better situation.