I recently attended a diversity program sponsored by the Oakland Teaching Fellows Program which is part of the Oakland Unified School District in Oakland, CA. One of the speakers was a principal who stated that at his school, every adult was considered a teacher. Besides the paid teachers, he saw himself as a teacher. He also saw and expected the lunch and custodial staff to be teachers as well. As he stated, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
On the way home, I started thinking if this same philosophy is being followed by soccer teams and leagues across the U.S.? My answer was, “Yes, but …”
I think soccer has made great strides in the past 30 years.
- The Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) has taken huge strides in teaching coaches to be more positive in their dealings with young players.
- Parents are more involved in their children’s activity than ever before. Players feel supported and loved by their soccer moms (and dads).
- Despite the questionable calls that are directed toward referees by coaches and fans alike, referees are supported and respected much more than any at time in the past.
But there is certainly room for improvement.
I always found it amusing when my kids blamed the referee for their losses or accused the referee of cheating. After a while though, their comments soon became old and habitual. But where and from whom did they learn these excuses? When I coached and my team lost, was I blaming the referees for the loss? I don’t think I was. But I know I am like many coaches I see today. While most coaches will say at the end of a game that the referee had nothing to do with a loss, during the game, coaches will constantly question calls and voice their displeasure. So I guess my kids did learn this behavior from me.
Most parents are great. But I still see parents do inappropriate things.
- Some parents coach their kids from the sidelines. These parents are usually saying one thing and the coach something else. This conflicts the player because who should the child listen to, the parent or the coach? This action also undermines the credibility and authority of a coach.
- Some parents openly question the calls and competencies of referees, regardless of the referee’s age. Oftentimes, these actions exacerbate and validate frustrations that players may already have on the field.
- Some parents engage in conversations with opposing players. Rarely are those conversations complimentary. Many times it is with players too young to know how to deal or cope with criticisms from adult strangers. This last action is inexcusable. I know most parents would not like it if their child was being criticized and questioned by the other team’s parents.
Soccer has definitely made great strides in teaching our children about sportsmanship, respecting the other team’s players, coaches, and fans, and even respecting the referees. But we certainly still have a long way to go, including yours truly. If all parents can assume a teaching role this season and accept the responsibilities that go with it, we will be teaching our children to be better players and people.