I’m going to be very vulnerable right now. I’m going to share a very painful memory, a very embarrassing memory. A memory that is probably more painful for my son than for me, which is heartbreaking because for me, even the fleeting thought of revisiting this day is debilitating.
Unfortunately, the story I am going to share is only one of an endless archive of bad days I have had as a soccer parent.
For many years, I believed that because I “know soccer” I’m a certified referee, I’ve played my entire life and been a coach that I was above the general rules of being a soccer parent. I felt that my knowledge of the game superseded my son’s developmental process and that I had a right to say whatever I wanted on the sideline. I would more or less dare someone to try and stop me.
One afternoon during a fall tournament after a rough morning where my son’s team had lost in the morning I had decided that our coach wasn’t doing enough. I didn’t think he fielded the right team for the event, I didn’t agree with his substitutions and I was not happy with how or where my son was playing. I had been mouthy in the morning, sowing seeds of dissent among parents and breeding trouble among our sideline. I was projecting all of my anxiety and discontent to anyone who came in contact with me.
I spent this entire game barking orders onto the field, disagreeing with the Center Referee and antagonizing the AR. At one point I even addressed a player from the opposing team and had to be reprimanded by a parent from our own team meanwhile a mob of opposing parents became increasingly irritated by my antics.
The game ended and I hurriedly snatched my son from the safety of his coach and teammates. I picked him off like a cheetah plucking out a beautiful, innocent and terrified gazelle. All he wanted was to get out of there but the only way out was in the car with me. But I did not let him get that far. I tortured him all the way to the car, an excruciating 150 yard hike of me hissing vitriol in his ear.
At one point a goal was scored on a field we were passing and he stopped once he heard the cheers. He turned to look at what had happened and I quickly grabbed his arm, turned him to look at me and looked him dead in the eyes saying “That's what it sounds like when you score a goal, you wouldn’t know.”
We walked the last 30 yards in silence but I know it was anything but silent in his head. Once we got to the van he stopped and I turned to him. I’m sure I was ready to finish him with my words but he stopped me and with so much courage and conviction he said “Mommy, usually the things you say to me are helpful but today you are just plain mean. Mommy, you are mean.” He was 9. I wish this was a turning point, it took me another 18 months to make a real change. I wish this was the first time, it wasn’t. I had been acting this way for 2 years before we got to this point. I still backslide.
My hope is every parent that reads this story says, “Wow, thats F***** up!” Because it is. It's unacceptable and I am so lucky that my son has survived having me as a soccer parent. Every day that he continues to train and play is truly a gift because statistically my kid should have quit a long time ago, because his mom was (is) crazy.
There are so many reasons why I am sharing this. I know there are other parents somewhere on the spectrum of crazy that need to hear this. But, more than anything I owe my son an apology, I am so grateful for the young man and footballer he is becoming but I am truly apologetic for the miserable experiences I put him through with my behavior. My hope is the good experiences have outweighed the bad ones and truly do love to watch him play.
My experiences are what lead me to write Stop Sideline Coaching and Inspiring Players by Empowering Parents two posts I hope will help other parents on their journey to become empowered soccer parents.