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Be a Good Winner
by Donna Olmstead, December 14th, 2010 1:01AM
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TAGS:  high school girls


By Donna Olmstead

It was cold outside -- in the 30s. The game didn’t count for district standings. And only diehard parents showed up. The kind I’d expect to know enough about soccer that I wouldn’t have the urge to wrap duct tape around their mouths and stuff them under the stands until the game was over.

As the game progressed, it became fairly obvious that the players on the opposing team didn’t play soccer except during high school. I talked to the mother in front of us who told me she was the only parent who ever showed up to support the team.

She also said that none of the girls had the funds to join club teams and that half of the players didn’t speak English yet, so there was definitely a communication problem.

Given the circumstances, of course our girls started scoring shortly after the game began. And we mercied out well before halftime.

I should have been grateful that we could go home early and get out of the cold, but I felt really bad for the opposing team. And our parents, who should have known better, got on my absolute last nerve. They cheered loudly after each goal. All eight goals. And shouted, “Way to go!” And hooted. And stomped on the metal bleachers. Each time they cheered, I cringed.

It’s my philosophy that you should keep your mouth shut when you’re three or four goals up. And you should tell your players ahead of time that, while you’re proud of them, you’re not going to cheer at the top of your lungs after that point. That while “crushing” the opposing team sometimes happens on the field, it doesn’t have to emanate from the stands as well. That, although you want to “beat” them during the game, you don’t want them to feel beat down well after the game is over. They know they lost, but we don’t have to make sure they feel like losers.

I know I may be in the minority with this philosophy. I hope not. I just can’t help putting myself in the place of the players who perhaps don’t play soccer 13 months a year. The players who, at least in this case, have only one real fan cheering for them.

(Florida resident Donna Olmstead has been involved in soccer through both her children and her grandchildren, as well as having housed professional players and owning and running an indoor soccer facility. She is a freelance writer and spends weekends trying to remember at which tournament she's supposed to be cheering.)

  1. Marc Silverstein
    commented on: December 14, 2010 at 2:35 p.m.
    Good job Donna, count me on your side. Signed a referee from New York
  1. Kent James
    commented on: December 14, 2010 at 3:20 p.m.
    I think what you're describing is known as "having class". Having been on both sides of that equation (I much prefer the winning side!), coaches, players, and parents all need to be aware of the bigger picture. While players cannot be blamed for enjoying scoring a goal, especially when it is a player who has perhaps never scored and is playing out of position, people need to keep things in perspective. Nobody likes to have their face rubbed in it. In addition to being the morally correct thing to do, being considerate when the opposing team is unable to compete at the same level also has an element of self-preservation. A team that is being humiliated may not be able to compete in terms of soccer ability, but they may choose to even the score in other ways, and then things start to get ugly.
  1. Sheri Marshall
    commented on: December 14, 2010 at 4 p.m.
    Awesome article, totally in agreement. I have recently become aware of a team in our area that is playing well below their level and beat another team 25-1. Can you imagine the hurt feelings of the other little girls on the losing team? Then some went online and bragged about it. I wish your article was a manditory read for all competitive soccer parents!
  1. Robert Robertson
    commented on: December 14, 2010 at 6:53 p.m.
    While I have many problems with the role of $$$ in US Soccer in particular - how workingclass children don't get a fair shake in the sport especially girls.... my experience is that on the general level of good sportsmanship the US ranks high. In the 300 youth games I have attended - I have never seen a team deliberately humiliated by their opponents - to the credit of the coaches and fans. Sorry this happened in this case.
  1. Nicholas Adams
    commented on: December 14, 2010 at 10:25 p.m.
    This is all too common a problem unfortunately. I have recently had a problem with a parent on my team where they aren't happy unless we are 'pounding' teams week in, week out at U14?! If this is any parents attitude then perhaps this game isn't for them. If there is too much empahsis on winning at all costs, as the American psyche seems to dictate, at these key developmental ages you will only succeed in turning away your child from the game as they will become disillusioned and tired of the pressures placed on them by their parents or over enthusiastic coaches. It's a hard job but if more people can have your attitude Donna, then we will attract more people to this great game.
  1. Brian Herbert
    commented on: December 15, 2010 at 8:11 a.m.
    Yes! Being a "good sport" applies to parents and other fans too. What struck me about your article is you went and spoke with that Mom from the other team. I often do that at my boy's games and have had some great conversations. If parents would not isolate themselves from parents on the other team, I think they'd see that the team they want to beat so badly is composed of kids from families, same as them.

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