I am looking at a photo of the soccer team my son played on for three years. In this photo, soccer was still fun I think. You can tell that this photo came from a full Saturday of soccer. A tournament where the boys played 6 games in one day. Their hair is pasted to their heads with sweat in the photo and in between games, they played rounds and rounds of jackpot. A game they made up that involved a fake jackpot amount and kicking of a soccer ball and tackling to see who could catch it in the air.
It was so fun to organize snacks and food so that they could stay energized. Always challenging to keep them from wanting donuts or treats of other kinds. We the parents had to vow to offer only healthy food or else risk a food mutiny.
That was when soccer was still fun for me. I hope that it stopped being fun for me long before it stopped being fun for my son. That is him in the very middle of the back row. Now, before I get a little angry, I do not want to seem completely ungrateful in this post. The men who coached him for those three years made so many sacrifices as volunteers. They would often miss the events of their other children in order to coach the team my son played on. I am so thankful for their willingness to do that for my son and the other kids on the team.
Soccer was fun when teamwork and learning and joy were the main mission. It was fun when every parent cheered for every child and gloried in the idea that every child was doing the best he could with the amount of talent he currently had. Soccer was fun when each child cheered each other on and communicated well so that they were stronger together than they were apart.
Soccer became not fun. It was not fun when parents would whisper in clumps about the abilities of other people’s kids. Soccer was not fun when people you thought were your friends would suggest that your child quit playing at the level he was currently playing at. Soccer was not fun when teammates were allowed to scream at each other like the very worst version of teammates ever. How could it be fun to watch adults blame each other for losses or goals? How could it be fun for adults to revel in the failure of children and groan when a child entered the game? How could it be fun for try-outs to happen before a season was over and everyone from the team, except for my son, cheer together at the end of that tryout for the team that he was still on for several more games? All of this happened.
Soccer was more than just not fun then. Soccer was damaging.
To those parents who believed that their behavior was justified, I hope you get what you want. From this mom, I saw ugly in sports where I had never seen it before. I played sports for my whole younger person life. Basketball and field hockey and softball. I always saw sports as much more than winning and college scholarships. I saw it as character building and all about learning what being a part of a team really means. Sports were always joyful and fun then.
So, to the parents who encouraged their kids to play team sports with an individual sport mindset, you win.
And, just so you know, I lose happily in this competition for whose kid is the best because I never want to be a part of making sports damaging ever again.
I am so thankful we are free. I am so thankful that you did not damage my child. He still plays sports. He still thinks that it is fun.