We were about to forfeit our second game of the season when our 7th player showed up and trudged across the field to join our huddle. The last game was a little breezy and rainy and this boy had walked off the pitch before the game even started. The practice before that he was more content to pluck dandelions from the field than do any drills.
Even with his daydreaming uninterested play, we were glad to have him, as 8 other families decided showing up for soccer with their son was not how they were going to spend their Thursday evening. Having this boy, even to stand at the center line and watch the play move past him for the next hour, would at least mean we would get to play.
This is the team my son is playing his first season of U10 outdoor soccer on. A lacklustre, passionless band of misfits held together by 4 or 5 kids out of 15. The same handful show up for practices and games and show an interest in learning and playing, the rest don’t care.
Even the head coach threw in the towel after the second week when kids would show up late, or not at all. He sent out a blasting email to parents begging for participation and cares. 3 weeks later comes the answer loud and clear: zero cares given.
I now get why parents throttle each other in the stands of amateur sport. It is so hard to watch your kid out there on the field get stomped on every time they play.
My son hasn’t won a a soccer game in a year. A full indoor and now most of an outdoor season and he’s been on teams that are lucky to get the ball across the center line, let alone score a goal or contend in a game.
It rips me to shreds to see my son defeated. I try to muster up Hollywood locker room inspiration, but when you’re staring into the blank eyes of a 9 year old, if you’re lucky enough to have them actually pay attention to you, you wonder if it’s all worth it. If there’s any semblance of ambition to pull from within them.
I love this speech given by David Belisle after his team lost in the 2014 Little League World Series. It was so wonderful to see him lift his kids from their despair and show them the mountains they had climbed. But those kids cared. My son’s teams don’t. Not a shred.
Tonight’s game was particularly devastating. While we had no subs and were lucky not to default, the other team had a sideline of 15 orange jerseys waiting to get on the field. As the second, third, and fourth goals went in, their players started dive bombing around the field as if they were Messi, Ronaldo, or Suarez. They’d all flock to the center and dance as if that goal had just sealed a 9 year old’s claiming of the FIFA World Cup.
The sportsmanship was terrible. So now I had to watch my son not only be let down by his own team, I had to bear witness to the torture of watching his nose get rubbed in it. Then, as the 6th, 7th, and 8th goals went in, I had to try and cheer him on to keep playing as the opposing team taunted him and told him he sucked.
It rips. my. soul. out.
I’m fine with my kid losing. I get that not everything goes your way in life, and that adversity builds character, but …. when absolutely nothing goes your way and you get your nose rubbed in it along the way?
Then I start to lose it.
So I can see why parents fight in the stands. I can see why they yell at referees, scream at other players, and go overboard.
It’s your kid on the field. It’s a piece of you running around out there, and you want the best for them. You want them to face that stiff challenge and break through it to come out the other side stronger. Except when that adversity is a brick wall and you trot them out at 6:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays to bash their head into it until their will is destroyed, it crushes you.
My son isn’t a great soccer player. But he cares. He tries hard. He wants to get better. But other kids are letting him down. For the past year he’s been on the worst team in his leagues. The commitment level of other kids, other parents, other families, not where it should be.
Tonight’s soccer game had 7 kids show up. Out of 15 on our team. No subs, which meant they were out there for the entire demoralizing hour. Why sign your kids up for sports if they’re not going to commit?
I put my son in team sports to learn how to play as a team. To meet kids his own age. To run around and have a smile on his face. I didn’t put him in team sports to have his peers let him down and to have the other team demean his spirit.
Instead of a positive spring sporting session of exercise, the drive home each night is dealing with his frustration, his crushed spirit, and begging him to dust himself off and show up to play again next week.
He doesn’t want to be a loser. He doesn’t want people to tell him he’s a loser. And it’s killing me every single Tuesday and Thursday.