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.)