If you want to see the worst in men, go and watch a children’s soccer match. The minute their kid hits the pitch, certain ‘grown’ men transform into testosterone-fueled man-beasts, obsessed with living out their failed sporting prowess through their poor kid. Clearly ‘grown-up’ is a loose term and I also want to clarify the use of ‘certain’ here, because there is definitely a ‘type’. There are plenty of well-adjusted men in attendance, who seem to have made peace with their masculinity, and don’t need to live their failed potential through the skinny legs of a six-year-old. I’m over it.
My eldest is 21. She started playing soccer when she was six. All my kids play, so I have had to tolerate these masochistic displays of blood-curdling competitive angst for 16 years. We’ve all seen them. The fuckwit dads. The ones that stand there yelling at a bunch of kids, who’ve only just managed to wipe their own bums by themselves. Run… run, kick it… kick it! Get back, Kye!’ The kid is always called something like Kye. There is already a coach on the field, but dickhead dad feels the need to confuse the kids further with a brand new set of instructions, yelled at fever pitch. Imagine what it feels like to have your dad standing there screaming at you and your team for the entire game. It’s embarrassing. And it must feel like a lot of pressure when you’re flat-out remembering which way you are supposed to be kicking the ball in the first place. If you know anything about how kids learn, you’ll realize that the surest way to affect their confidence is to give them too many instructions. And then scream at them. Some people might call it ‘getting involved’. Or even being ‘supportive’. But I’d say it’s just yelling in the direction of kids for your own personal enjoyment. Sure, dickhead dad is no longer allowed to sledge the other players, although I have heard that as well, so instead they shout ‘helpful’ instructions. You want to yell at kids on the field? Become a coach. If you’re not a coach, apart from cheering and clapping, then shut up. Cut up some oranges. It happened this morning at my seven-year-old daughter’s soccer game.
Let’s call this bloke Mr. Enthusiastic. For those not aware of the many rules that govern parental conduct at children’s sporting activities, one of them states that parents have to be on the sidelines at a reasonable distance from the pitch. This morning, a group of parents assembled behind their goalie, with Mr. Enthusiastic, front and centre yelling at his kids’ team. That meant that our team was facing the opposing team’s parents. By the second half my fifteen-year-old son, the coach of our side, and a National League Player, asked Mr. Enthusiastic to move. Of course men like Mr. Enthusiastic don’t generally listen to fifteen-year-old boys. So he stayed. My son is passionate about the game and has had the conduct rules drummed into him by his coaches. It’s a shame when adults choose to ignore them. So I march over to have a friendly conversation with Mr. Enthusiastic. I ask Mr. Enthusiastic to move from behind the goal and to take up position on the sidelines, as is protocol. Mr. Enthusiastic doesn’t like it. I imagine it is embarrassing getting stick from a woman in front of the other parents, so perhaps he doesn’t respond in the most appropriate way. He says, “I’m not yelling at your team. I’m yelling at ours.” But I explain that it’s intimidating for the kids. Then big grown-up Mr. Enthusiastic says, “It’s intimidating when two of you come over here and ask me to move!” Fail. That was the wrong response. The correct response was “Oh, I’m sorry. I get a bit overexcited, I didn’t realize.” And then move. But he doesn’t. He’s defensive. Then I say it’s a code of conduct to protect the kids. Should I even have to explain that?
He’s standing there yelling at his kid’s team, which (by the way) is all boys, in the direction of ours, which is almost entirely comprised of girls. Is it so hard for an adult to realize that standing with one hand on the goal post yelling might be perceived as intimidating when a young girl is doing her best to get past some boys and shoot for goal? How can adults be so invested in their kid’s winning? If you’re that hung up on the game (and winning), join a team yourself and maybe your kid can come and yell at you.
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