It's only a game

In no time, the swearing resumed. Then throwing clipboards and towels. Then berating the kids. The kids who still needed plays didn’t want to go in; they were afraid to make a mistake. Boys coming off the field were blaming their teammates. There were three or four coaches waving and yelling and swearing, but I think there was only one actually swearing at the boys.

The last straw for me was when one boy wanted to come off the field because his head hurt and the coach wanted him to stay in and they started swearing at each other – including the F word – and the boy was kicked out of the game, all within five feet of where I was standing. I froze, horrified. Playcounting Dude was seemingly shaken up as well.

“You can check off #4, I told him. He’s out on the field.” This may be the first useful thing I did. I wondered if he felt as helpless as I did.

The exiled boy had pitched his helmet and flung himself face down on the ground next to the bench and was sobbing. Surely it takes a lot for a middle-school-aged boy to cry in front of his team if he doesn’t have a physical injury. Where were that kid’s parents? I wondered. Where were any of the kids parents? There were plenty of other adults standing around behind me: did they think it was okay for the coaches to yell at their kids like that?

Playcounting Dude asked me if I had any Advil. I told him I did, but I’d left everything on the other side of the field.

“Do you mind getting it?”

“Not at all!” So, I ran back and forth as quickly as I could so as not to miss any plays– perhaps this was the second useful thing I did.

He gave them to the boy on the ground and told him to get a sip of water.

Breathless, I peered at the playcount sheet. Only a couple of kids needed plays. Finally, #4 was in for his last play. I didn’t even bother to wait until it was executed; I signed off on the sheet and wished Playcounting Dude good luck for the rest of the season. As I passed the boy, still lying on the ground, I bent over and told him I hoped he felt better. I don’t know if he heard me or even felt my touch on his shoulder through his pads. I’d like to think this was the third useful thing I did that day, but I don’t know. Should I have done more, said more?

I still don’t know the answer to that question.

What I do know is that my kids have never experienced that kind of coaching, thankfully, during any of the seasons they played or within any of the organizations for which they played. If they do, I vow here and now not to stand silently on the sidelines.

I also know that youth sports are supposed to be fun. They are not opportunities for us to have a do-over or live vicariously through our kids. If we are not part of the coaching staff, there is no reason to be yelling advice from the sidelines or bleachers, unless it’s something along the lines of “do your best.”

Furthermore, I know it’s only a game. There will always be another game next week…or next season.


Caroline B. Poser <><

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