Hey Coach,

I’m sorry Charlie has been absent from practice and games the last month. We had a vacation and some schedule juggling that had soccer slip off the priority list for a bit. And then something else happened: Charlie said he didn’t want to play anymore.

I’m not the one to let my kids be quitters, but in this case I let it slide and we stayed home the past few weekends.

I’m not surprised he lost interest, really.

We’ve watched from the sidelines all season as you cracked a stiff whip on this U8 team of boys playing games for the first time in their soccer career.

We watched how 60 minute soccer practices were stretched to 90 minutes, often extending past Charlie’s school night bedtime.

We watched how you scolded the boys for talking about Pokemon on the bench instead of watching the ball.

We watched how you scolded Charlie for trading a “paws up” gesture with his mother in the stands. It’s something that they do to encourage intensity and focus, you didn’t like him paying attention to his mother and you let him know it.

We watched as, with only 5 players available for one game, you blew right through the half time break and ran the kids to exhaustion at full time.

We stood as you lectured us about how Charlie didn’t always focus in practice and how his behaviour needed to change. I get it, letting a parent know their kid isn’t on board sometimes needs to be said. But your tone? You were lecturing. You were out of line. It took every ounce of my wife’s fortitude not to lay into you right then and there.

Scolding, scolding, lecturing. What was supposed to be a fun, learning and growing experience turned into the exact opposite. Our smiling 7 yr old boy lost interest in the sport and often asked not to go when we were packing up for practice or games.

I know you’re just a volunteer, coach. I know you’re out there donating your time to teach our children a game. But when fun takes a backseat to scolding and lecturing, you’re overstepping your mandate.

I’ve been in your position. I spent 3 seasons coaching or assisting teams. It’s hard when they’re 6, 7, or 8, and daydream, don’t understand small directions, and don’t share your intensity – but they’re kids.

Last year I coached a team where nearly 1/3 of the kids were taking medications for behaviour disorders. I had a goalie who would routinely throw tantrums, cry, and disrupt games when goals were scored on him.  My kids didn’t win a single game all season, but they had fun.

Charlie isn’t like the kids I had on my team before. Sure, he’s probably the weakest player on your U8 squad, and he runs a little funny, and he gets excited to talk about Pokemon and wave to his mom, but he just turned 7 halfway through the year.

I know you wish all the kids could be like your son. He’s a fiesty one who likes to slide tackle and take dramatic dives when tackled himself. I’m sure you and he watch a lot of European football on the weekend and he takes his exaggerated play cues from the world’s best. It’s great your kid loves the game, and tries hard, but you’re coaching a dozen other kids too.

Charlie likes to draw, he’s never really liked to watch tv. I’ve tried to get him to sit with me to watch baseball, hockey, football or soccer. I’m a sports fan, like you, but my son is happier with a book or notepad and some pencils.  We enrolled him in soccer 3 years ago to meet kids in the community, grow in a team environment, and burn off some steam. Until this season he was loving soccer.

Then you crushed it.

In 6 short months, you took a fun game and made it a chore. You turned a Saturday morning out with peers into an occasion to be singled out and scolded. You took a smiling, engaging, creative kid and you turned him into a quitter.

We had to really twist his arm to get him to play soccer for the spring season. Eventually he came around, as long as we promised he’d be on a different team. We went one better and chose a different association to play for in the spring.

So I’m sorry Charlie didn’t show up for the last month of the season. but it’s not him, it’s you.

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