By Randy Vogt
We have all met people who have fancied themselves as the big man on campus or the mayor of the town they live in. The type of person who lights up a room just by leaving it.
As one example, a man named Greg from a health club that I was a member of a generation ago. Greg, who was approximately 30 years old, good-looking and had some rather well-developed muscles, talked a great deal, he was very loud and he always talked about himself. You could not help but hear him. So much so that I knew more about what was going on in his life than in my own life!
Bringing this into the context of the adults in youth soccer, sadly we have seen referees who are dictators and somehow believe that the game revolves around them. The type of refs who do not allow any dissent whatsoever and look to overrule their assistant referees.
I have seen many adults living vicariously through their kids in youth soccer as well. Whether they are coaching the team or on the spectator side, adults quickly getting down on kids and berating them because they are not playing up to the adult’s lofty standards is another sign of people who believe the world revolves around them.
With dictatorial refs or adults berating kids, I have found that kids in youth soccer eventually tune them out and often move on to another sport or leisure activity.
That health club where Greg and I were members closed over a decade ago and I joined a new club that opened at that time. The members there seem more interested in one another than in my previous club. The best example of this is Charlie, who does not have the looks or muscles of Greg. In fact, Charlie is elderly and is physically challenged. Despite his physical limitations, he is able to work out some and I have to give him a great deal of credit for that. The club is 300 yards from where he lives and it would take him an hour to walk it if he had to. He never does as he has a whole entourage of club members, including myself, who gladly drive him home.
Charlie works a mile from where he lives at a Catholic non-profit organization. He also frequents a bagel shop in town. I have only been there a couple of times and recently as I was waiting on line (we New Yorkers wait “on line” rather than “in line”), Charlie came in and said hello. Although he was last on line, they took his order first and delivered it to his table as he’s physically challenged, unlike everybody else who picked it up at the counter. People on line called Charlie by name, asked how he was doing and wanted to know if he needed a ride home.
This village area is like the bar in “Cheers” as everybody knows Charlie’s name. Much more so than the 8,000-game referee with the syndicated referee column who also lives nearby. Charlie was even given a hat stating “Mayor” on it from one of his friends as he is the unofficial mayor of our Long Island town.
As Bob, a calm Soccer Dad who also drives Charlie home from the health club has said, “Charlie is very personable and always makes the conversation about you.” Which might be a nice side effect from working with nuns.
Greg sought power but did not have it and Charlie does not look for it but has it. All because he is always thinking of the other person.
Bringing this back to the soccer field, the people who are going to succeed are the ones like Charlie who work hard, are personable and are always thinking about the other person such as the many refs and many coaches who make the game about the players, not themselves. They should have long careers, unlike the ones who talk early and often about themselves and will get tuned out.
(Randy Vogt has officiated over 8,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to 6-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In his book, "Preventive Officiating," he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. You can visit the book’s website at www.preventiveofficiating.com/)