A Perspective on Perspective
By Joe Ulm
I’m on the sidelines watching one of our teams play. It’s a few weeks ago. As the game winds down to the last two minutes I realize it’s one of the best games I’ve seen all spring. Both teams are evenly matched, the sidelines are full of parents cheering, and every player is giving it their all. The atmosphere is positive, competitive, and engaging – all you could ask for at a youth soccer game. Then the referee calls a foul…and it all changes.
As players begin to prepare for the penalty kick, the opposing coach walks on the field, and begins berating the referee. He calls him crazy, arms out wide, and demands an explanation before he’ll allow play to resume. He does all this at a volume that can be heard across the park. The referee is 16yrs old. Maybe.
I’m at another game a week or so later. This atmosphere isn’t so positive. One team is playing soccer, the other is playing something more like football. Parents shift uncomfortably in their seats as players from both teams pick themselves up off the ground again and again. The goalie box has become a wrecking zone and the game is threatening to get out of hand. At the height of all this, a parent from the opposing sideline begins screaming at his son, “Go get him!” “Run faster!” “Put your shoulder into him!” “Don’t take that from him!” I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone yell that loud. His son was nine.
These are just two of six or seven situations I’ve seen this spring that make me wonder…where did these people lose their perspective? This is youth soccer. Youth soccer. As coaches and parents, we are the role models; we teach players right and wrong, we teach them how to handle adversity, respect, sportsmanship, and all the rest. This is the magic of youth sports; the not-so-secret sauce that helps players learn those essential concepts that will help them achieve amazing things in the future. But to do this well, we need to maintain a clear perspective. Even when the referee makes a bad call. Even when a “rough” player knocks our son or daughter down. Even when others around us lose their perspective.
Stay United, everyone.