This Saturday was spent, as it feels like every Saturday has been for the past ten years, watching one of the kids participate in a youth sporting contest.
There was a different feel to this particular game, quieter, more subdued. A certain usually boisterous father uncharacteristically keeping his big mouth somewhat shut for a change.
The reason for this silencing was an e-mail from the soccer league earlier in the week informing parents of a new “silent sideline” rule that had been implemented. Applause for good play was still allowed but other than that we were basically told to stand there and shut up.
The reasoning seemed valid. The stated goals being the development of player on field decision making without sideline intervention, improving the player’s communication with each other by reducing the outside noise level, and supporting and aiding in youth referee retention by eliminating dissension from spectators.
The reasons were valid but I hated it. Hated it and found myself unable to comply. I understand the need to let the coaches coach, try not to yell instructions at my kid during the game. I understand that these referees are all volunteers, feel that I do a pretty good job of not telling them about their mistakes. I’ve never mocked an opposing player for poor play or scolded one of ours.
I yell things like “nice job”, “nice try”, “nice pass!” Sometimes I yell “get ready defense”, “spread out girls”, “you’re going the wrong way!”
Anybody that has spent any time at these games has come across the kinds of parents that these rules are intended to curtail. Jackasses that yell at their kids, that yell at the refs, that embarrass themselves and their children. Maybe I’ve just been fortunate, but I’ve found those situations to be very rare.
The e-mail stated that this change had come at the request of a player, leading me to believe that there was some parent at some level of competition that was acting like a fool. I’m fairly confident that it wasn’t me.
As uncomfortable a conversation that I would imagine that to be, I think that the coaches involved in that game should have taken that parent aside and talked to them. Further occurrences could lead to the removal of that child from the team, an unfortunate result that I would hope any reasonable parent would try their best to avoid.
I tried, I really did, and I think it was the quietest I’ve been as a spectator of any sporting contest that I’ve ever attended outside of a PGA golf tournament and even at that I went as nuts as anybody when Notah Begay dropped a twenty five foot birdie putt on the final hole to win.
My daughter is six, playing a sport she’s not very familiar with, and she’s busting her butt, hustling every play, getting better every week. All these girls are. I can give them high fives and words of praise at halftime and after the game but is that really all that fun for anybody, all that exciting to little girls that deserve to be cheered, need that encouragement?
I’ll bite my lip, do my best to tone it down a bit, try and honor the league’s wishes as best I can but if a “silent sideline” is really the result that is ultimately desired I’m probably going to need a muzzle.