Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sports Complex, Part 2 of 3

Click to read Part 1 of this series

After the rough season-ending loss from my last post, I had trouble shaking off the apparent bad sportsmanship at the end of the game.  I ended up emailing the coach, though with great trepidation.  I tried to word the email in a non-blaming, non-challenging way.  I just shared the observations that Barley had made about the lack of communication from the coach after he pulled Barley out of the net (1 & 2 above), stated that this surprised me as it was not the coaching style we had observed during the year.  I asked him to please share his perspective, since we had only heard Barley's perception of it.  I was nervous about sending it for 2 reasons:  1) the coach and his son had also just lost the same last game of the season, and they were probably as upset as we were.  2) Maybe Barley was right and the coach WAS mad at him.  My email might make things worse.

Luckily, the coach emailed back quickly, saying that not talking to Barley at the end of the game had been an unintended oversight.  He was distracted by the progress of the game, and in no way believed that any one child was ever to blame for losing a game.  It's all a team effort.  That made me feel much better, and we shared this re-affirming news with Barley.

What has really gotten me thinking, though, is my lack of zeal in reaching out to the parents of the boys who were actively hassling Barley about losing the game.  I was certainly quick to call parents over the yo-yo incident.  Why was I hesitating in this case?  I've been thinking about this for a while, and this is what I came up with:

   1. I feel insecure calling parents of more athletic kids about this.  Barley is definitely on the bottom half of the kids on his team, and we know he is not as good a goalie as his teammate.  He just started playing the position 2 months ago, and he is still learning how to read the ball, and what moves to make.  I wonder if I think these boys' parents are going to tell me they agree with their kids?  Rationally, I know these other parents, I don't think they will.  They are all nice people, and have never made disparaging comments about any of the players, or even other teams' players.

   2. Then am I hesitant to call because I agree with the other boys?  No, I agree with DH's assessment of the shots--they were not fumbles on Barley's part.  And I also agree that in a team sport, it takes more than one player to win, or lose, any goal.  Sure, individual players can play better or worse, but good sportsmanship says you support each other in a loss, not blame.

   3. I think the bottom line is that I feel out of my element with sports.  I was never an athlete as a child.  I was always the gawky, shy, clumsy kid that got picked last in gym.  If I ever played a team sport in intramurals, I was the one who missed the swing, dropped the ball, ran too slow, etc.  The little kid in me knows that it really was always my fault whenever the team that got stuck with me lost.

  4. So, I feel like I am in a foreign culture, and complaining that your kid is being mean to my kid would just be too, I dunno, nerdy for this.  While I am sure of the moral high ground about kids teasing each other about money, grades, race, physical handicap, or appearance, I am not certain the same is true for athleticism.  This might be due to my own childhood sporting inadequacies.  Or it might be because this is one of the few cases where I am on the disadvantaged side.  Perhaps it is easier to know that teasing about money is wrong when I have plenty.  Maybe I would not have been so quick to call the parents of the teasing boys if DH and I really couldn't have afforded the nicer yo-yo.

    5. Even if I did make these calls, I have zero confidence this would stop. Sure, we don't agree with what the tykes are saying to each other, and maybe the coach needs to remind them all of what good sportsmanship means.  This type of thing probably happens after every loss, and Barley happened to be the goat this time.   But hey, "Boys will be boys," and I can't protect him forever from this stuff, right?

Anyway, I don't have a clear answer on this.  I don't know if I should be calling this out to the parents of the other boys, or request the coach to make an announcement, or just try to help Barley at home to tough it out and learn to ignore this type of post-game critique (while reminding him this is NOT OK, and he should certainly NOT follow suit).  Anyone else weather this maze already? 

Part 3 of this series is coming after Memorial Day.  I have a few other posts lined up for you before then.


  1. I agree, our joint unfamiliarity with the world of the locker room probably makes us a bit more hestitant to intercede here. For all we know, that sort of hassling after a loss is part of the magic if being on a team--that shared motivation. But I think a more important part of team spirit is supporting each other, win or lose. I'll likely contact the coach before the next game and ask him to address the team about that. I'm sure he'll agree it's an important topic for these boys as they progress up through the competitive ranks.

  2. Oops. My comment was chewed up. I agree with DH in having the coach bring it up.

    As a woman who was a sports-playing kid, let me say I'd have been mortified if my mom called the other parents. Now, if she'd seen it happen and said something to the kids or the parents in the moment, I would have been more at peace with her intervention.

  3. I can offer a two prong thought on this being that I am a goalie and I have spent time on the losing and winning ends.

    As for the goalie aspect: I have coached and played the position, though not in soccer, I can tell you that its very similar mentally. I am one to blame myself for every goal, internally. It not only gave me a thicker skin but also gave me the confidence to know when others were deflecting the blame from themselves. I totally agree with what DH did, talk it out, and ask hat..if anything...could he have done differently. I have told the kids I coached that goalie is tough...its the only position where your mistakes are put up in lights. When Barley can learn to discern "good" goals from "bad" goals it will make life easier on all around. It takes time, and he can always call his cousin if he wants to talk about a tough game.

    Secondly, I am not one for "taking crap" in the locker room. There is a community in that room that can never be duplicated elsewhere. To this day the thing I miss most is my teammates. That being said, it should be good natured ribbing, and constructive criticism. Coaches don't always calculate every move and every word. I have been cornered by numerous parents that mistook something I did or didn't do as malice. There are bad eggs, but in my experience youth coaches usually do it because they love the game they coach. Talk with them civilly and trust me you will get everywhere with a coach.

    Sorry I can't offer ANY parenting advice.

  4. Thanks, John, and Patois. As former (current?) geeks, we were missing the jock perspective on this. Not surprisingly, it's not all that different. Thanks for the guidance.

  5. Its ok, I always walked the line of geek-jock. Almost a dual life...I don't regret it, but its not an easy path. :)


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