So I finally got around to finishing Mike Greenberg’s book “Why My Wife Thinks I’m an Idiot.” I am a slow reader and it only took me 4 months to read it. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel a tiny sense of accomplishment in getting to the last page his book. And it is toward the end of his book where he tells the story of being at a T-Ball game and being absolutely disgusted with one of the other dads in attendance. He goes on to explain how this man was being verbally brutal with his kid, and how we as adults need to remember that what’s important is for our kids to have fun first and foremost when they’re out playing organized sports.
I kept replaying those words in my head as I stood along the sidelines watching my son’s soccer game this afternoon. I kept telling myself, “What’s important, Gil, is that he has fun out there.” Of course, I couldn’t hear myself over the chorus of voices in my head screaming over-the-top instructions to not just my kid, but all the other kids in the light blue soccer jerseys. “Drop back. You’re out of position. Create space. Don’t wait for the ball, go to it. Make the pass. YOU’RE ON THE SAME TEAM!!!!!!!!” I admit several coaching comments came out of my mouth during the game, but for the most part they were tempered in contrast to what I wanted to say.
So instead, I clapped and cheered when both teams performed well, and I offered words of encouragement to my son’s teammates whenever a goal was scored against them. I kept a pleasant demeanor and reminded myself of Greenberg’s words. All the while, I criticized the coach in my head and questioned why my son was standing idly on the sideline. I understand that in youth leagues every kid should get in the game. That’s fine and dandy so long as you’re not benching MY kid to do so.
So as we walked off the field following the game, I had a dialogue with my son that was a combination of the imagination of an over-ambitious dad and the simple honesty of a six year-old boy.
“Did you have fun?” <ask him because he needs to remember the important thing is to have fun>
“You did a good job out there.” <although you could have done a better job attacking the ball on defense>
“Did you learn anything out there today?” <like how you need to dribble more and have vision of the field and anticipate where the ball’s going to be and ……>
“Daddy, did you eat all my french fries?”
“Umm……yeah. Sorry. We’ll hit McDonald’s on the way home.”
To say I was hyper-competitive as a kid would be a major understatement. Over the years, I’ve learned to bottle-up my competitive nature and let it out only when I need to. Yet, watching my kid out on the field this afternoon was like having someone shake up that bottle and me having to struggle to keep it from exploding all over the place. This is my son’s first soirée with any type of organized sports, and I now understand why parents behave like idiots at times from the bleachers. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying I understand.
When I first registered Daniel for soccer, I thought about perhaps coaching his team. Lee told me that was not such a good idea, and after today I am beginning to agree with her. I like to think the competitiveness of the situation would not be too much for me to handle; that I’d be able to keep the fire in check and focus on teaching these kids the fundamentals. Yet for me, it’s always been so easy to get caught up in the winning and losing. Given that, I know the best way for my son to be a winner on the field is to make sure I can be a winner on the sideline.