By Karen Green
This week, I heard people talking about how it was “silent week” at soccer, meaning that parents were not allowed to cheer, clap, coach, or say anything at all during the game.
It may sound like a strange initiative, but I am all for a week or two like this.
Early in the soccer season, I had the unfortunate luck of sitting next to a woman whose daughter was playing for the opposing team, and who spent the entire time hurtling aggressive missives at her daughter, whom she did not think was playing a serious enough game.
There was a near-constant, very loud stream of prompts: “CHALLENGE HER, LISA*! CHALLENGE HER!” chides: “YOU CAN RUN FASTER THAN THAT!” and even an episode of a grab-and-drag when little Lisa had the audacity to move to the edge of the pitch to say hi to a friend. “Oh no,” her mother gasped, leading her back to the action, “you are not on a break!”
I was horrified. These were six- and seven-year-olds playing a game in a municipal league, not the final game of the World Cup. I bit my tongue for as long as possible, until about two-thirds into the game, when I could not take any more “instruction” from Lisa’s mother. I snapped.
“MISCHA,” I yelled to my own daughter, “JUST TRY AND HAVE FUN!”
I yelled it as loud as I possibly could, and actually silenced Lisa’s mother for almost the entirety of the rest of the game. When Lisa’s mother did begin her sideline coaching again, she was much less abusive. Nevertheless, the episode upset me so much that I have not been back to Mischa’s soccer games since then.
I’m not usually a fan of enforcing a rule like silent week on an entire group because of the bad behaviour of only a few, but in this case, I think it’s not a bad idea. These games are not supposed to be about us—or about pleasing us, which is what we tell the child they are doing when we applaud and cheer every move. Lisa’s mother may have been an extreme case, but I doubt it. Maybe we all should just bite our tongues and let the kids play.
*The child’s name was not actually Lisa.
Karen Green recently traded life in the biggest city in Canada for life in the biggest cornfield in Canada. Freed from her full-time job as a writer and editor, Karen now spends her time…writing and editing. And frolicking in the leaves with her two small girls. Karen is a speaker, the founder of Mom The Vote and the author of the blog, The Kids Are Alright, where she has been writing about the humorous and poignant moments of family life since 2005.