Soccer Dads

Tonight was a rough one. It was the end of my kids' soccer season and I was hoping for a fun "game" to go out on a positive note. (I have to quote "game," because they are 3-5 years old and mostly just run in circles chasing a ball.) Neither of my kids is super into soccer, so most of the struggle is spent getting them out on the field to at least try to play. I'm not expecting the next Mia Hamm or anything, just asking for a little effort. Most of the time, they sit and pick the little rubber particles out of the artificial field.

Tonight, however, one kid really stood out on our team, and right from the get-go, took the ball and scored a goal. Then he did it again. And again. And probably ended up with about twenty goals by the time the game was over. It was fun at first, since he was on our team and just destroying everyone else. We were winning! Hooray! I even congratulated his dad, who was standing by us, cheering his son on.

But as the game wore on, pretty quickly both teams became increasingly deflated. No one could keep up with this kid, and so no one was having fun. Again, this is a league for 3-5 year-olds, and with all kid sports, isn't the end-goal fun, teamwork and a general experience of the game?

The field went silent as he scored goal after goal. The only one smiling was his father, who continually cheered him on, beckoning him to "take the ball" and "shoot." At halftime, I asked my wife if she would pull the kid, or maybe make him goalie. "I'd be a coach and make him goalie," she said, citing a little disapproval of our coach, who just sheepishly smiled his way through the victory. It was clear that literally no other kid on the field was having any fun, but neither coach nor his father made any changes. The game went on, and the field got quieter.

Ellie likes goalie.

I was fuming, and kept talking about it. We asked Ellie to ask the kid to pass to him, which he didn't do, making her upset that he didn't listen. The coach saw her plight and told her to get in there and take the ball. She did, as well as a few other kids, and soon the same team was playing defense against itself, just to get a foot on the ball!

Still, the father cheered on. "Take the ball! Get in there!"

I couldn't believe it. How could a dad continually tell his child to "take the ball" when no one else was touching the ball or enjoying the game? Parents, coach, referee, players -- it was ridiculous. At his father's beckoning, he bullied his way to the ball, ran past every player, and scored. I understand being proud of your kid and his or her accomplishments, but have some consideration for the team.

Of course I'm directing most of my anger towards the father, who had an ignorant smile plastered on his face the whole game. It was as if he was oblivious to the silence of the field, the downtrodden preschoolers and their parents who were just hoping, even rooting, for someone else to touch the ball. And that's why it made me so mad: he just didn't care.

I kept asking Katie, "How could there be people like him in the world, that care so little for anyone else and teach their kids to do the same?" It's a bully mentality and I just don't understand it. Force your way in, take what you can, and laugh at all the chumps left in your wake. It's one thing to be this way yourself, but to bring up your children in the same way (he had an older son who carried himself similarly) -- the perpetuation of selfishness just sickens me. But I'm probably being na├»ve. Of course there are people like this in the world. Hell, they practically run the world -- businessmen, politicians, world leaders and the such. But to them I say, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36)

I'm probably being dramatic -- this is the first team sport my kids have played and I am sure I will run into more dads like this -- maybe it was just shock in experiencing this for the first time that is causing me to write this blog. But still, it just makes me sad and angry to see a man so oblivious to the effects of his win-everything mentality, so much so that he is teaching his offspring to do the same. What kind of world are we creating if these are the men and women of the next generation who will run it?