Soccer is an extremely emotional sport, at least for its fans. Especially for its fans. We've all heard stories about the soccer hooligans in other countries, yelling racist comments and throwing things onto the field, fighting in the stands, stampeding, etc. The United States is not immune from such behavior, if the recent assault on a referee in Utah is any indication. In the younger soccer leagues, the fans are the parents of the children playing. We all say that we want our children just to have a good time, to learn good sportsmanship, a valuable life skill. But secretly, we all harbor a fervent wish for our child to be the very best athlete out there, which is completely understandable. College scholarships are gold, and nobody ever says that they wished that their child were more average. Soccer at that age, however, is ultimately played for fun.
Soccer parents are normally friendly, generous, pleasant. But put some of them on the sidelines of their child's soccer game, and these same lovely people begin to behave in a manner that would frighten hardcore prison inmates. Sometimes things get ugly. The poor referees tend to get the brunt of the ugliness. My husband, a youth soccer commissioner as well as a coach, has gone to great lengths to emphasize proper behavior for the parents who attend the games. And he's emphasized to the players that the referees are to be respected, no matter what. It's worked very well, and our son's games have been much more pleasant.
We decided to go to an older kid's soccer game a few weeks ago. It was a very competitive game, and the players were giving their all. The parents from both teams were sitting along the sidelines. There was clapping and yelling of encouragement to the players, their teenaged children. There was one guy sitting near us, however, who spent most of the game yelling at the refs. He felt that the referees were not officiating the match as well as they should, and he screamed his annoyance at them. Every time it appeared that a call should have been made, this man hollered, made gestures, and suggested that the refs do things that are no anatomically possible. We were appalled. Larry and I gave the man many nonverbal cues regarding his behavior, frowning at him and rolling our eyes. Other people who knew him were doing the same thing, and a couple of them told the man to knock it off. Finally, a coach walked from the other side of the field walked over, and he pulled my brother aside for a little chat. My brother was politely told that if he didn't stop his behavior he would be asked to leave. That finally did the trick. The man sat down and didn't yell anything else for the rest of the game, while the rest of the family pretended that we didn't know him.
My brother isn't normally so verbally aggressive. He is one of the more laid back people I know, and he's usually the calm one when there's a family crisis. Something about watching his children play sports just causes him to go nuts. He's been thrown out of many of his boys' games because of his behavior. His kids are embarrassed. His wife won't go to the games with him anymore. People won't sit near him. He knows that it's wrong, and that he should just shut up, and he does try to sit quietly and watch the game. It never lasts.
My brother is a soccer hooligan. I will just have to sit on the other side of the field from now on.