Every spring, I look forward to attending the State Soccer tournament. Regardless of where you sit, there is not a bad seat at the Creighton University soccer stadium. Unfortunately, a good seat can go bad when you have the misfortune of sitting in front of a group of fathers who are constantly criticizing the abilities of the referees and providing subtle negative commentary about players and coaches.
Similarly, a new coach shared her recent not-so-positive coaching experiences with the parents of a 10-year-old recreational baseball team. These types of individual and group behaviors, where referees, players and coaches are constantly criticized, is unfortunately becoming increasingly common at all levels.
I think it is important that we all step back and consider how what we say impacts others. Participating in games should be an enjoyable experience. One suggestion I would like to make to improve the experience for everyone, both on and off the field, is to try and practice the skill of empathy by putting yourselves in the shoes of those we want to criticize. Early in my coaching career, I was thrust into a situation where I had to become the center referee for about 20 minutes. This experience gave me a new perspective about the challenges referees have when managing 22 constantly moving soccer players.
Another eye-opening experience is when we would have parent-player games. It is fun to watch parents realize that playing the game, making the split-second choices and having the skills necessary to implement them, is not as easy as they think it might be when watching from the stands.
When thinking about coaches, consider that they are not only managing skill and tactical development, they are also playing the role of psychologist and social worker among other duties. In many cases, coaches are volunteers who are doing their best to help the players. Your player looks up to them. Talking negatively about the coach publicly does not help anyone.
Keep the game in perspective. The key word is “game.” From experience, nothing is gained from getting on the referees, the players or the coaches. It does not help your team’s cause or your player’s cause. It does drive referees, coaches and players away from the game. This is not good for anyone.
So next time, before taking verbal action, pause for 10 seconds. Think about the impact of what you say on the people to whom your comments are directed. Put yourself in their shoes. Practice empathy and the 10-second rule. It will help all of us.