Fans' View

Fans’ View: Hope springs eternal

I am the eternal optimist. Every game I go to I have the attitude that my team will prevail — whether its the deciding league game for my U-14 son, the state cup finals for my U-10 son, the group stage of this World Cup, or any Union game. However, it seems like, with a few exceptions, we get close, only to lose in the last seconds or the final game.

I know there is some cred to rooting for a team that is the underdog, that team that never seems to have luck on their side, supporters ‘til you die and that kinda stuff. But, just for once, I want to feel the jubilation that comes with winning something big — the division, the State Cup, dare I say, the MLS championship — and not coming in second.

We have gotten close in our family. My younger son’s team lost the State Cup finals in May. My elder son’s team was one game away from the division win during the season, and one goal away from winning on goal differential in a big tournament. My Union? Well, my naive optimism at the beginning of the season has taken a bit of a beating. I have lost count of the games that have been given away in the waning moments.

I wonder what’s going through the minds of the players (even my kids) when they get close and then fall short. After the State Cup loss, my son was pretty mellow about everything. He got a medal, he played well, life was good. Other players were not as sanguine about the whole thing. There were a few tears and gnashing of teeth.

I know how my eldest feels. There is anger and frustration, blame to go around — refs, opposing players — no one is safe from his wrath. How to channel these emotions for good is still something we are working on.

So that brings me to the Union. Every game I go in thinking, “This is it, we’re scoring goals and blowing the opponent off the pitch.” And then, the game begins.

I love my boys in blue and I am the fan who will not boo the players. It could be because I’m old enough to be their mother. It could be because I can’t imagine the frustration they are feeling, to train all week and then fall apart the one day that you have to prove yourself.

I tell my kids you gotta want it, but is that enough? I see my eldest play his heart out and it still isn’t good enough: maybe one of his teammates was having an off day, maybe (always according to my son) the ref was making bad calls, or maybe they other team is just better than they are. It’s tough on a mom.

Team sports are an interesting animal. You put together a bunch of different people with different skills sets and say, “Go, play, win. However, by the way, you must also work together as a well oiled machine.” Adults doing this is difficult. I can’t imagine how kids deal with it.

So, I keep hoping every game that this is going to be our time. We will triumph and the hardware will come to rest in our house.

Until then, hope springs eternal.

5 Comments

  1. John Ling says:

    I don’t let my kids* complain about refs during their games. I establish up front that everybody is going to make mistakes during that season – me, any assistants, the players, the refs. It’s the nature of the beast. I tell them instead to focus on doing what they can to make it so the ref’s mistakes just don’t matter. If you’re up 5-1, who cares about a bad offside call or a questionable call in the box? The other thing I key on – especially in regard to their own mistakes – is to just forget that it happened. If you get called for a handball in the box, nothing you do is going to undo it; and stewing over it just makes you play worse.
    .
    (* “my kids” here refers to the kids I coach, not just my biological offspring. Once I coach your kid, he/she is forever labelled as one of “my kids.”)
    .
    As for your son: “I know how my eldest feels. There is anger and frustration, blame to go around — refs, opposing players — no one is safe from his wrath. How to channel these emotions for good is still something we are working on.”
    .
    These are pretty normal responses, honestly. As long as he continues to show good sportsmanship on the field during and after the game, I’d suggest letting him have his personal pity party – for a day. After that, see if turning it back toward him helps him direct those emotions better. “Yes, the ref called you offside when it looked like you were good. It’s hard to get it right in youth games because the refs have a lot to do. What do you think you could change to avoid the issue next time?” See if he talks about timing his runs a little better, or if he’s the one delivering the ball maybe he can work on sending it forward a split second sooner to help his forward. Or, maybe he realizes that by continuing to think about it during the match he’s hurting his team because his head is in the past instead of the moment.
    .
    My son sounds a lot like your youngest. He hates losing, but he can shrug it off and move on to the next thing pretty well. My daughter is a lot like your oldest, in that losing gnaws at her; last season, her team one once all season, then got knocked out after their only two playoff games (double-elimination style tournament). She bawled her eyes out, because she fully expected they would win that last game and keep playing. (And the fact that it was ridiculously close and went to a penalty kick shootout didn’t help, I think.)
    .
    After the crying comes the anger. “Why didn’t make that save? It was right at him!” “Why didn’t score? He was dumb and kicked it over the bar instead!” Those questions immediately got turned around. Was she willing to get in goal in that situation next time? What could she do so that the next time that situation comes up, the coach (her dad!) picks her to be one of the kickers instead? What could she have done different during the game so that maybe we don’t even go to a shootout?
    .
    Those sorts of questions made her stop and think, at least. And stop blaming others who clearly had tried their best and just didn’t have things work out. So maybe that’s something that’ll work for you, too.

    • As the son of a former referee, I can’t thank you enough for teaching your kids not to complain about the ref. Such a good lesson- I wish there were more coaches like you around youth soccer.

      • John Ling says:

        I ask my parents not to complain, as well. And those that insist on doing so I invite to come and ref a scrimmage so they can see just how insanely hard it is to do. Oddly (ha!) nobody has taken me up on that offer yet.

    • My eldest has just started to referee, so I think his perspective next season might change a bit. My pet peeve is the kids that throw their arms out when a ref makes a call. Definitely not tolerated in my house. It has helped a little that my husband is a ref and can discuss the calls with both boys.

      Especially not a fan of parents yelling at the ref!

  2. This is a great post Staci! As the official spokesperson for the female gender, it’s always nice to hear your perspective. 🙂
    .
    One of the best things about soccer is that it often isn’t fair, so it provides great lessons for kids. They get to realize that sometimes you can’t control everything in life and no matter how hard you try, the outcome will disappoint you. Keeping hope alive through those disappointments is an invaluable life skill.

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