Fans & Manners

I’ve traveled to a top girls’ and boys’ tournament each over the past few weeks, looking forward to watching some good teams and players, and I was able to do this. I also was on the receiving end of some lovely hospitality from the Richmond Strikers and the Dallas Cup Committee, and want to extend my wholehearted thanks to those kind folks.

But let’s just say hospitality and the betterment of their fellow man was NOT what was on the mind of many of the people I observed attending the event. In the past few weeks I have seen, among other things:

  1. A dad challenging another dad to a fight.

  2. A child reduced to tears by a dad’s (not her own) constant browbeating from the sideline.

  3. Something akin to assault and battery, or rioting, among a few players at the end of one match.

  4. A parent yelling at her small child on the sideline because the kid had the nerve to interrupt her while she was screaming at the referee during her older son’s match.

  5. Some members of a youth soccer team engaging in a pattern of terrorizing property, teammates and other guests of the hotel I was staying at.

I should point out that I don’t mean to ignore the bright spots. In the last example, for instance, there was another team staying at my hotel, the U13 Alaska Rush, who exemplified good behavior and class throughout the week. The kids were able to have a ball by being kids, without bullying, vandalizing or disrespecting those around them. They were a great example and a good team besides, and I want to write more about them.

Memo to other youth soccer kids: A crowded breakfast room in a hotel lobby is not the place to blare obscene rap lyrics, and a hotel employee asking you to turn it off does not make someone a racist or a Nazi.

Memo to coaches and/or parents: Knowing where your kids are and what they’re doing when you are traveling is probably a good idea.

Just saying … of course, some of the parents were probably too busy thinking of things to say to the referee the next day on the sideline. Some of my favorites from the past two weeks:

“She’s pushing her every time, ref. If you can’t call it we’ll get someone who can.”
(Unless this person was the referee assignor, and it wasn’t, I don’t quite get it.)

“Don’t take that! Give it right back to them!”
(Unless I have found the referee who will call that, of course)

“Do you want to pay for the dental bill, ref?”
(Hey, let’s leave the health care debate out of this, OK?)

And the always popular but never original – “Where’s the card, ref?”
(I want to offer a cash prize for the referee who one day responds, “Well, right here in my pocket, of course. Where is your brain?”)

What underlines all of this is that we are supposed to be watching a game for young players. It is competitive and intense — I appreciate that — but it is never about the spectators. You fans who keep shouting are interjecting yourselves into the proceedings and making yourselves the center of attention – and nobody wants to watch you, so SHUT IT already. I swear, someday we are going to just start anonymously filming fans on the sideline of youth games and showing it in our TopDrawer Original Videos. When we do it — it will be one of our most-viewed features in the history of the site.

Hopefully, more and more parents and coaches will take lead roles in setting the bar higher as far as expectations on behavior around the youth soccer world. I won’t be holding my breath, but it would be nice.

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