Passionate Parents: Be Kind to Your Kids’ Coaches and Game Refs – We Are Doing the Best We Can
How I Got Into Coaching
In the fall of 2020, we decided to let our daughter play soccer for our town league even though COVID was still pretty rampant. Because it was an outdoor sport with minimal contact and safety protocols in place, we figured it was a safe way for her to have fun and get some of her energy out. Plus, she loves playing.
At the first practice, I was sitting with a group of parents on the field when the league's coordinator came up to us. She explained that there was a huge lack of volunteers due to COVID. We had one coach but unless one of us stepped up to be the assistant and help coach the team, she'd have to dissolve it.
I didn't raise my hand. I've never played soccer and don't know much about the technicalities and rules of the game. I must have looked like a big old sucker though because she caught my eye, squared me up, and said, "You. Can you do it?" I must have looked like a deer in the headlights when I stammered, "I... uh... don't know ANYTHING... about soccer!" She told me it didn't matter and if I didn't step up, we could all just go home.
So, I did it. Me. The kid who never played a team sport in her life outside of being forced to in gym class.
Thank God for Youtube and My Valiant Husband
All I can say is thank God for YouTube. The guy who was our actual coach was also coaching his older son's baseball team. Because he couldn't be in two places at once, a good share of practices and games fell to me. I learned some basics pretty quickly and I roped my husband (who knows about the sport ball things) into coming on board and be the assistant to the assistant. Luckily the girls were still little and my basic understanding of fundamentals got me through.
I quickly learned how much I enjoyed coaching. I mean, I loved it! Sitting on the sidelines, especially for a YMCA or town league, you don't get the chance to get really invested in your players. Since I was the coach, I had the opportunity to learn their names, strengths, weakness, and personalities. As the season went on, we got better at strategizing and developing the skillsets each player needed to focus on. My daughter got to see us working as a team and though she didn't always like seeing mom and dad in another leadership role in her life, it gave her a different perspective of us.
We definitely weren't perfect coaches, or maybe even GOOD coaches, but we were there. We showed up and we volunteered when no one else would. And even if the girls didn't learn a lick about soccer, I made sure we celebrated the small victories each child had at practices and games. I made sure they had fun and left with passion and a more positive self-image than when they showed up.
Violence Toward Coaches and Refs is on the Rise
So today, when I saw the story about an umpire being punched by a mad parent at a softball game in Mississippi, I wasn't shocked but I was saddened. Now don't get me wrong - none of our parents ever complained about our coaching. Everyone was kind and supportive because they knew our situation but I know parents aren't always so forgiving.
This particular story involved a woman named Kristie Moore who has been umpiring games for 10 years. The irate mother was asked to leave after outbursts of cursing and waited for Moore in the parking lot where she attacked her. Moore stated in the story, “It’s ridiculous, the verbal abuse. And even now, the physical abuse now, at this point, and enough is enough."
I Shouldn't Have to Say This BUT That's NOT Okay!
First of all, we are all aware that these are CHILDREN'S SPORTS right? Like, I get you become invested but we aren't talking life and death situations here. And, what kind of message does this send to your kids?
As someone who holds a PTO office and is always asking for volunteers, I can assure you, it's hard enough to get parents involved in their own kids' lives and interests let alone find qualified volunteers or employees who work for pocket change to take on the role of mentoring kids in a competitive sport. Throw berating, belittling, and violence in the mix, and even the passionate people who just really love that sport will hang up their whistles for good.
Think You Can Do Better Than Me? Be My Guest!
I don't get out on that field because I'm on a power trip. I am there because I want my girl to have the opportunity to play and to make a difference. My motto was always: if you think you can do better than me - I'd gladly hand over this responsibility. Until you do, zip it. And if you have an issue with me or want to offer constructive criticism to me or my team, do so in an appropriate manner. Leave your crazy in the car and let's let kids be kids and have fun.
Kindness is FREE - Throw It Around Like Confetti
It doesn't cost anything to be kind. Give it freely - especially to the people in your kids' lives who show up. And while we are at it, even when you don't feel like it or think you arent' exactly qualified, offer to help. Offer to volunteer. Be the parent who shows up and becomes a real role model for your kids instead of the one who sits on the sidelines hurling insults.
Dusting Off My Whistle
Oh, and if you were wondering, I missed being "on the team" so much that I let the coordinator know that I still don't know much about soccer but I'm happy to help in whatever capacity that they need. Guess what - again not enough people volunteered to coach. So, I dusted off my proverbial whistle and the kid who despised gym class and her valiant husband are at it again this year being the best dang assistant coaches they can.
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