All three of my kids are in soccer this summer. The older two are playing for city rep teams, while the youngest is just beginning his first year of house league. They all love it. It keeps them active and occupied. It also gives me a chance to see them play.
When I went to watch my first rep game this year, however, I was disappointed to hear that parents aren't permitted to call out to the kids on the field. General encouragement – “Go blue!” – is okay, but specific instruction – “Watch the offside!” – can mean fines and penalties for the team.
At first I didn't understand this rule. I've coached in several sports, including a little in soccer. I've also hung out with the coaches of our team and watched enough of their practices to know the kinds of instructions that they'd want reinforced. It seemed strange to me that I couldn't encourage the players in that way.
Then I saw some of the other parents.
They weren't all a problem. Some of them were really great, and most of them could at least be civil to each other and their kids. Given the opportunity to call out to the players, they would either have kept quiet or been positive and helpful with their comments.
A few of them, however, were really obnoxious. The score of the game seems to matter more to them than to the kids. They rant and rave and stamp and complain about this player or that one. They question the playing time their kids get. They criticize the play of the other kids. They go down to the bench to offer unsolicited advice to the players and coaches. If these parents were allowed to call out to the players, it would be an unmitigated disaster.
I saw one of these parents pull her son to the side at halftime the other day. She all but dragged him by the ear. I couldn't hear what she was saying, but her whole body language was angry and threatening. When she was done, she came to stand next to me as her son trudged back to the huddle.
“I don't know what his problem is,” she told me. “He used to love soccer. Now he doesn't even try. And they won't even let me yell at him during the game, so he just plays lazy. It's a stupid rule.”
“No,” I thought, “I'm just now realizing why it's actually a very good rule indeed.”