Irish Grassroots Football

Let me set the scene…….

This is a typical scenario on the sideline of a kids sport games each and every weekend. Before he/she arrive at the park that morning. Children wake early excited about playing for their team. Meeting their team-mates and putting on the clubs colours. They dream about scoring a goal, a try, a point, a basket! Most of all they look forward to playing, having fun and being part of the team. They hope the outcome is a positive one, they play to win and they try their best. Unfortunately for many children the dreams are not realised.

Let me take you to a kids football game. Imagine you’re standing on the line watching on. Toni is a u9s player, who loves football and dreams of playing for his national team some day.

(Loud adult noise from the sidelines overpowering the noise on the pitch)

“Pass the ball! Get rid of it! Ah jaysuz Toni; for feck sake pass the bleedin ball!” (At this point the 9 year old in most cases is related to the loud voice, nervously tries to pass the ball to his nearest teammate but instead, it awkwardly bobbles off the side of his foot and out of play. The lads father is screaming even louder.) “TONI what’s wrong with you? (Take him off, he mutters under his voice) Are you that stupid? I’ve been screaming at you to pass the ball! Do what I’m telling you to do, I know what I’m talking about! Concentrate on the game! Stop giving it away and don’t let the fella put you off! Be hard, be strong!”

(The little lad looks beaten and quickly glances over to the sidelines at his father before he hangs his head in shame and try’s to run after the ball, trying to make up for his father disappointment. He father continue to talk him down in front of the other parents and makes reference to other players on the pitch;who’s parents are not present at the game.)

Moments later an opposing player cleanly tackles Toni and takes the ball away from him. The referee’s whistle is silent but the line erupts with noise. Toni’s father roars at the ref.) “ah FFS you blind or what? That’s a foul! How can that not be a foul? Referee do your job will you! That kid should be off”. (With that the opposing line start to get involved and screams can be heard directed at Toni’s father.)

“Shut your mouth, you’re at the whole game”, screams an opposing parent. (Toni’ dad gives them the v sign, the ref approaches him) “How can you not see that, foul?” (The ref tells him to calm down. The father doesn’t back down). “I wouldn’t be shouting if you just did your job!” (The referee glares at the man and warns him to keep his mouth shut otherwise he will have him removed from the park. Suddenly it has become very quiet on the pitch, as the game comes to an abrupt halt. Everyone is looking on, even the teams from the game adjacent) Toni and a number of players from both teams stop and watch the altercation unfold. Toni is cringing in embarrassment, looking for a way out. He’s just wants to go home now. He begins to walk towards the line with his head down. His father is still arguing with the ref. Toni stops under his dads nose and looks up) “Dad, stop! Please your embarrassing me. It’s just a game and I want to go home now”. (Toni’s Dad backs off and the game begins again without Toni on the pitch) “Toni, what did you give?” (Toni looks away as if he didn’t hear his dad) “TONI, I’m talking to you, if we lose this game it’s your fault” (Toni sits amongst the gear, places his chin on his knees and looks on. A tear rolls down his cheek, which he wipes away with his finger. His father looks down at him, tuts and shakes his head in disappointments.)

I’m sure we can all relate to this situation. It happens every week and will happen this weekend and next weekend and the weekend after until we educate adults how to behave on the sidelines. This is another well intentioned mis-guided adult. Many parents like this, get caught up in the moment of the game. It becomes all about them and less about the children that play. Pressuring their kids to perform and understand like adults do. Forcing the process each and every week.

What’s the outcome? Children playing below their potential, being afraid to make mistakes and not having fun. Eventually dropping out of the game for good and holding resentment towards their father, for life.

We know that every parent wants the best for their child. However we are now controlling so much of what our children do and giving them very little freedom to explore. Unfortunately, far too many parents don’t know exactly what they should and shouldn’t be saying to be the most helpful, they don’t now how to behave on the sidelines.

This is a relatively new issue with so many adults now attending kids games. Many of these parents say and do things before and after games and this actually puts the child off. It also increases their anxiety and even before a game has started they’re already fearful of making mistakes. Most of these kids never reach their true potential. Do you want this for your child? If the answer is NO! Stop all the shouting!

Next week I will discuss the parent role in kids sports.

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