The rain fell down heavy from dark clouds and struck his body like a thousand pebbles all at once. Each drop seemed to pass right through him before landing softly on the pavement. He didn’t feel the wetness of the rain, only the pain of it. He was a tall, slender man, except for the slight bulge about his mid-section. His hair was dark brown and thick and short but wet it looked black and thin pressed down on his receding hairline. He had a boyish face except for the puffiness under his brown eyes that gave away his late 30’s age. His arms dangled at his sides with his keys clutched in his right hand and a closed tall golf umbrella in his left. Absently, with his soft-sided faux leather briefcase shoved under his left arm, he just stood there next to his jet black Lexus, eyes cast down, absorbing the pain. The light from the open garage in front of him did not seem to penetrate the outside making it appear as if there was a glass wall between him in the cold rain and the dry warmth inside.
A slow squeak caught his attention and he lifted his head. In the doorway between the garage and the house he could see four eyes staring at him. He squinted through the rain and the pain and saw the flowing auburn hair of his oldest daughter and the light golden ponytail sticking straight up in the middle of the head of his youngest daughter. They blinked. He looked down. The rain fell harder.
How was he going to tell her? She would do what needed to be done, he knew that, but it didn’t make it hurt any less. There would be fewer smiles from her for some time or maybe no smiles ever again. Oh how he lived for her smiles! They were enormous and lit up her face brighter than the sun. He could get blinded by just one of those smiles. He lived a lifetime in each moment she smiled. Now they would be gone. Their future changed. Their everything unknown...
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The ref had had enough. He turned to the dad on the sidelines who had been yelling at him and sternly said, “Sir, go to your car.” The dad did not. He reminded the ref, louder, how wrong he had been about his most recent call. “Sir, if you do not go back to your car, I will forfeit this game!”
The dad’s kid ran across the field and pleaded with his father to go to his car. The dad picked up his lawn chair and turned toward the parking lot, walked a few steps, and turned back toward the ref. He yelled again at the ref. “Dad, please!!!”
The dad turned away again, took another few steps toward the parking lot, still yelling but not directly at the ref. The ref stood still, arms crossed, brow furrowed, watching the dad. The dad turned around again toward the ref to give him one more last piece of his mind. The ref blew his whistle. “That’s it! The game is forfeited.” The ref and assistant refs left the field.
This happened last spring during my son’s soccer game. These were 12-year-olds. The father was from the opposing team and they were losing a close game. Because of one dad, the game ended early.
If you have ever been to a youth sports game, you have experienced situations like this. Some parents seem to act like they are at a Bears/Packer game, yelling at their kids, yelling at the refs. It’s ridiculous.
The purpose of a child to play a sport is to get physical activity, develop a love for sport, make new friends, learn how to deal with challenges, develop team building skills and, most of all, have fun. It is not to become Megan Rapinoe.
The purpose of the referee is to keep the players safe and make the game as fair as possible. They are not going to be perfect. In fact, that imperfection provides kids with the opportunity to learn how to overcome unfair obstacles, a key fact of adult life.
None of the teammates of my kids are going to be professional soccer players. A few may get college scholarships, which is certainly very valuable, but it is unlikely I will see any of them in a World Cup.
I think parents forget this. I know they want the best for their kids but some have lost sight of the reason their kids are playing in the first place. I think they yell to protect their child and help their child. They are doing neither.
When a child makes a mistake, they know it. They don’t need “reinforcement” from their parents. When a ref makes a mistake, he or she makes a mistake. So what! The kids, like the pros in this case, need to learn to move on to the next play and overcome the refs mistake because that is how life is in the real world. Yelling at the ref makes the child think that behavior is right, and it isn’t.
I have progressively got quieter on the sidelines over the years. I was like most parents and yelled at refs and told my kids what to do on the pitch. Listening to other parents do that made me rethink my actions. I thought about how I would feel if I was their child. It made me cringe.
The vitriol from parents at the refs is awful. I have refereed soccer and remember how demoralizing it feels. When I did yell at a ref as a parent on the sidelines, I was more than likely right because I know the game, but it was still wrong to do. They made a mistake, maybe, but now I have chosen to remain quiet. So many refs quit every year but they are a critical part of the game. It’s not worth it to argue a call if the result is the ref quits. Most refs are good and try hard and make a mistake from time to time. That’s life.
Most parents don’t know the game well and yell at the refs about calls they don’t understand. I stick up for the refs now on the sidelines. If the parents on my team yell at the ref, I calmly explain the call and why it was right. Occasionally, I tell them the ref got it wrong and I tell them it’s no big deal. It happens. It’s part of the game. Oh, and the kids are 12!
Even for those few parents who know the game well their child is playing, they have no excuse for abusing the ref or umpire. The refs are doing their best and they are going to make mistakes which is part of the game. No ref is purposely trying to disadvantage your kid.
I feel like some parents think a ref or coach or teammate or opposing player is treating their child unfairly. We all have our opinion on what is “fair”, though. And fair is not whatever is good for my child. And fair is never really fair anyway.
Anytime my kids complain about a ref I always ask them, “Did the ref put the ball in your net?” Sure, she made a few bad calls, I explain, but you have to overcome those. That’s part of the game. That’s part of life.
For me when it comes to youth sports, mom’s advice is best: if you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all.
Originally published 11/17/2011 on Momaha.com
In general, I am a fan of birds. Most of them are beautiful and graceful and can fly which, let’s face it, all of us wish we could do.
Cardinals and blue jays are my favorites. They are beautiful and colorful birds that you don’t see very often. When I see one, I usually stop what I’m doing and admire them until they fly away.
We even have a pet bird. Well, at least the kids have claimed it as our pet. It’s a hawk and his name is Jerry.
He (or she, we haven’t actually checked) enjoys hunting the empty lot near our home for mice and snatching sparrows out of the sky. He loves to perch on the lamppost outside our back windows. Once he devoured his prey on the top of our swing set while our kids watched in fascinated silence.
There are some birds, however, I could do without. Like the barn swallows who dive bomb me while I’m mowing the yard. Or the sparrows who crap all over our deck.
But there is one bird in particular that I hate and never want my children to see. It’s small and slender and has no feathers. It is most commonly known as “the finger.”
I saw this “bird” on a day that was already on the top 10 bad days of the year. A woman backed up and hit my car in the church parking lot right after I dropped off our two older girls for religious education. No one was hurt which was good, but now I had insurance companies and repair shops to call. This dad was already busy enough!
About an hour later, I returned to church to pick up the girls. On our way home, a guy in a small, red SUV believed I cut him off when I merged into his lane. I was pretty sure there was plenty of room between our vehicles and I didn’t feel like I did something wrong, but the long blare of his horn suggested that he did not agree. “Daddy,” one of the kids said from the back, “why did that guy honk at you?” “He thought I was driving wrong,” I replied.
At the next light, I moved into the left turn lane and the guy pulled up right beside me. I noticed him out of the corner of my eye but ignored him partly out of embarrassment but mostly out of indifference. What could I do now anyway?
When the light turned green, I noticed his vehicle did not move. I continued to ignore him so he honked his horn to get my attention. Even though I knew what was coming, I couldn’t stop the natural reflex to turn my head in his direction.
And there was that nasty, ugly bird.
Now, I can appreciate someone getting upset for being cut off on the road. It has happened to me before. Heck, it has happened to all of us. But do you really need to flip the bird at somebody in a minivan that is likely full of kids?
He left that middle finger pointed directly at me for about 5 seconds while he yelled what I presumed was an obscenity-laced tirade about my driving inabilities and then slammed on the accelerator to speed away. Unfortunately for him, it had snowed earlier that day so the road was a bit icy and, for a moment, his vehicle went nowhere.
I reached for the door handle. A person can feel tough encased in 2 tons of metal and get away with acting like a jerk, I thought, but how about face-to-face in front of my children? How tough will he feel when I ask him if it’s worth it to flip me and our kids the bird? And, yes, a small part of me wondered if I would feel better slugging the guy, something I have never done before.
Before I got the door open, his tires gripped the pavement and he squealed away. The kids, luckily, saw none of this because they were engrossed in a movie on the DVD player in the back. I shook my head, chuckled to myself for the incredibly stupid idea I had to confront the guy, turned left and continued home.
I’m sure all of us at one time or another has flipped the bird at somebody while driving. Traffic is stressful and some people probably shouldn’t be allowed on the road. But, isn’t there at least a little etiquette? Everybody knows you never flip off an old lady or a guy who looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Its time we add people in minivans to the list.