Sunday, April 05, 2009

Poor Sports

Amended to add: It's 3am, and I actually woke up, worried that someone might read this (heaven forbid, someone local who knows a kid on the other team) and think I was bashing the other players or their parents. That wasn't my intention, although I think it might have come across that way. They are a good group of kids, and a few of them interact lots with the boys on our team and seem to enjoy their company. Just that with some people, players and parents, there is this level of competitiveness that I don't understand. A win-at-all-costs mentality that I find silly in an eleven year old soccer (or insert sport of your choice) league.

And what bothers me specifically about it is the people who have it, seem to think less of people who don't. They look at us like we're weak; we look at them like they're obnoxious.

I heard a parent from one of the teams we played this weekend (it's awesome taking pictures from behind the goal ... you would be amazed at what you hear from the other teams when they don't think you can hear them) tell his son, "You need to get a lot more physical this half, just make sure you do it outside of the box." This was from the game that warranted four poor sportsmanship cards. And for those of you who aren't familiar with soccer, a foul inside the box warrants a free goal kick (ie, potential goal) whereas a penalty outside the box is just a free kick. So he was basically telling his son, "Fouling them is ok, just don't do it in a spot that could cost us."

And you know, if that's the attitude it takes to compete in sports, then I'll be steering my son towards trombone lessons in the future. For now, I'm just going to remain grateful that he's on a team of boys (with parents) who feel like we do --- a little fresh air, a little sunshine, play your best (preferably withOUT yellow cards) and have fun.

I hate poor sports. Specifically, people who whine and complain and always have an excuse when their team loses. Even *more* specifically, people who whine and complain when their CHILD'S team loses.

The refs weren't fair.

The other team cheated.

Home-court advantage.

Discrepancies in the scorekeeping.

The sun was in my eyes.


I hate when the parents act like that because it's obnoxious. It's annoying. It gives out a bad representation; where do you think the kids learn it?

Of course it's more fun to win than to lose, that's not exactly ground-breaking news, but really, parents everywhere should set a better example.

Now, with that public service announcement out of the way, I'd like to commence with the bitching about Kellen's soccer tournament in Arkansas this weekend.

We had our first game Saturday morning at 8am and we lost, 5-0. I guess if I was going to throw excuses out there, it would be that the team we played was a local team, and the boys on our team had all driven four hours to get there on Friday evening and stayed in a hotel Friday night, so we probably weren't quite as well-rested. Not to mention the two players on our team who got up at 3am and drove to the fields Saturday morning. But I won't make those excuses because the other team, plain and simple, was better than our team. We hung in there fairly well, but they were just bigger and faster and worked better together. No excuses.

Our second game was Saturday afternoon and we tied, 4-4. If you ask the parents on *our* team, we actually won by one goal. A goal that the referee called back due to some funky tournament rule none of us had ever heard of .... my other excuse would be that the boys on the other team played rough. Rough to the point of dirty. Dirty enough that there were four yellow cards called in one game ... I don't think I've seen four yellow cards the entire year, and there were four in this game for shoving and pushing and intentional tripping. And that was only the four times it was blatant enough that they got caught. There was plenty more going on behind the scenes .... I know. I was there, with a camera. The other team wasn't necessarily bigger or better or faster, they were just more aggressive, and that's not how our boys are used to playing.

But the boys didn't seem too upset. We took them back to the hotel afterwards and they swam in the pool, played elevator tag, then we took them out to a matinee, then we had a pizza party, and then they all collapsed in bed at an early hour .... like the world's funnest slumber party, according to Kellen. This hotel, as per Kellen, is second in the world for fun ONLY to the Great Wolf Lodge. And of course the beauty in that was I only had ONE boy in my room, as opposed to all eleven of them.

This morning's 8am game had us matched against another team that was bigger ... faster .... better ..... we lost again, 4-1. And with that, we were officially out of the tournament. Hey, wait a second. Something seems suspicious here. Kellen's team, the U-11 "B" team in his league, seemed genuinely, truly outmatched the entire tournament. And the "A" team in our league won all three of their tournament games, 5-0, 8-0, and 10-0.


Does anyone else sense anything fishy here?

Yep, tournament officials confirmed it at our last game. They accidentally switched our "A" team and our "B" team at registration and we played each other's games the entire tournament.

Well, that pretty much sucks.

On the one hand, we can feel good about the fact we were in the wrong bracket and at least the games weren't total routs. Yeah, we got beat, but we didn't get creamed. We did a pretty decent job of keeping up and even managed to score in two of the games. It was a great learning experience, and let our coach get a good look at the areas where we need improvement. Most importantly the boys got to play a sport they love.

Blah, blah, end Susie Sunshine.

Is it wrong that a small part of me is annoyed? Not even that we drove eight hours round trip and paid for two nights in a hotel and tournament fees and all those meals out, and didn't win a single game, but because they never had a realistic chance to win a single game? And not even because they didn't win, because losing is part of life too, yadda yadda, that's not what bothered me. But a few of the boys on the "A" team were gloating about how much better they did, and how there was "no challenge" at this tournament (as if they were playing soccer and yawning at the same time) I just wanted to get down in their little eleven-year old faces and say, "You were playing OUR games, against "B" teams, you arrogant little brats" and honestly, an even smaller part of me just wanted to pinch them.

Because I'm a grown up like that.

For the record, I don't think there is a HUGE difference in the skill levels of the "A" team and "B" team in this league. It's more a difference in attitude. I certainly can't speak for sports teams everywhere ... but in this particular league, in this particular age group, our "A" team has more ego .... more drama .... more attitude. Truthfully, we "B" team parents have sat back this year and watched, commenting to one about how glad and relieved we are that our "B" team boys seem to genuinely like one another and enjoy spending time together, both on and off the field. Sure, they're always happy to win -- who isn't? -- but they also enjoy playing just for the fun of it. They encourage one another on the field, and are quick to congratulate a goal, and even quicker to "you'll get 'em next time!" when a goal is missed. Of course, that laid-back attitude comes through at practice, and games, and I think the "A" team players and parents look down on us a little bit for it. Which is ridiculous, because they're in the FIFTH GRADE for goodness' sake, and you'd think they'd be thrilled just that their boys are having fun, but as anyone who has kids, who play sports anywhere can probably tell you .......... some parents are living vicariously and are pretty pathetic about it, and it shows through in their attitude. And shit rolls downhill, if you know what I mean.

/end rant.

We went back to the hotel this morning after our game, knowing full well we didn't make the "A" bracket semi-finals, and the boys wanted to swim again before checking out. So we let them. And they made up this fun water/soccer/baseball/kickball type game, and were throwing and catching and leaping into the pool and squealing with happiness like little girls. Kellen came over to me at one point and when I asked if he was having fun he replied, "Yeah, this is the most awesome trip ever!" and at that moment, I was reminded of what mattered, and knew that win or lose, the trip was totally worth it.

They are a great group of boys, and a great group of parents, and we've truly enjoyed ourselves these past nine months. I'm not going to pout about a stupid registration mistake at a tournament.

After all, I'm a grown up. Who is a good sport.

Instead I preferred chortling when I heard our "A" team, who, **shockingly** (finger quotes) did make it into the semi-finals, had to play in the cold front that blew into Arkansas today, with temps in the high 30's and 30 mph north winds. Their game took place while we were eating left-over pizza by the indoor heated pool.

And the team that beat us 4-1? They beat our "A" team in the semi-finals ...... (wait for it, wait for it ....) 4-1.

Clearly, Kellen understands the value in enjoying time spent at an out-of-state tournament, whether you win or lose. It's all about the elevator tag.

His mother, on the other hand, is just shallow enough to gain a small sense of satisfaction in knowing our boys played just as well against the same team.

(small print) Because deep down, I am apparently a very poor sport.


kimybeee said...

Have a child that played competive, what I call "pay to play" softball from age 10 to age 14. I totally know exactly where you are coming from. And it is usually the grown ups that foster that craptastic attitude in their "perfect playing stars".

The one thing your story missed to me would have been the tourny officials compensating your team for setting them up for failure. If they admitted it was their mistake, I think they should have at least given you back your entry fee.

The favorite part was the bad weather moving in - just shows that what goes around - comes around.

The Running Girl said...

Oh my! I can't believe they switched the teams and the brackets they were suppose to play in. But good for your boys in having fun. Believe it or not, I actually like out of town tournaments sometimes. It's like a mini vacation for me.

Anonymous said...

It's all about the fun, the support, the social interactions. It's about self learning. Parents seem to ruin it, seem to not show a good example and then truly show their immaturity.
Which parent in their right mind would exchange insults with an 11 yo? from a different team? and get satisfaction from that?
It's good that your son feels he had a good time. Later in life, this will be a funny story, all the work getting there and then playing against the wrong division.

For you parents who show support to your kids' sports, drive them hours, put them up etc.... etc... *that's* what matters most. Your 100% support, it is what will make your children feel like winners. It's rewarding too.

Anonymous said...

I totally understand where you are coming from. Where in Arkansas was the tournament? Only reason I ask..we used to live in Conway and I still have a soft spot in my heart for all that is Central Arkansas. Glad y'all had a great time in the end!

Claire in Texas

Musings from Me said...

I have two travel volleyball players -- a 10 yo and a 13 yo. One has had a "learning to play and not winning games season" while the other has had a "win a game, lose a game, win a game" season. Frustrating on both counts. I will say that volleyball parents seem less stressed than other sports. Very supportive of both teams on the court.

Stefunkc said...

I am so not a good 'sporting mom' because of things just like this. Everything you said and thought was completely justified and very well written.

And extra brownie points for raising a son that can see the big picture:)

Rosemary said...

Had to laugh at this.. and hope you didn't lose too much sleep over it.. Those parents might need a little look in the mirror, and they can't be offended by the truth. Maybe they don't know what they are doing??

I have seen first hand those attitudes.. especially when my son was playing on the A team for baseball. The older he got, the worse it got, and when he was 12 and was HUMILIATED by the coach (and a couple of other players)at a minor mistake he made in a game..we just pulled him from that team. There were plenty of extra kids to play (the 'benchsitters' who never got to play - one of them must have been thrilled!) so it didn't hurt the team at all.. and we had spoken to the coach multiple times about the language he used with all of the kids. Some parents seemed willing to put up with the abuse so that they could brag that their kids were on this elite team. We just wanted our son to play the game he loved. We waited too long to make the switch for him,it just wasn't fun anymore.. and now he doesn't even play.

Do you read Suburban Turmoil? I loved the story about the competitiveness on her daughters soccer team last spring.. I think the kids were three or four!?

Love your blog.. keep the stories coming!

How's Blaine feeling?

Anonymous said...

Now that's the biggest difference between a kid who plays the sport because they love it and a kid who plays because their parent loves it. My kid plays what you would call a "B" league simply because she doesn't want to spend her whole weekend travelling...and am I ever ok with that :)

Bridget from Canada

cakeburnette said...

If it makes you feel better, I'll share a time when I was not a good winner. Although I mainly kept it to myself, since I was in public (I just told Mark). Austin's school, BMS, recently hosted some middle school math tournament that had schools from all around middle GA. I was happier that P. Middle (where most of his rec football team friends go to school) beat the pants off FMMS and MCMS (I'm using the abbreviations but you will be able to figure them out) than I was about how his team did. I hated the snotty attitudes we got when people find out that Austin plays rec ball in P and felt very vindicated for the entire city! How immature is that?

Anonymous said...

As a former soccer parent and soccer board member for 3 years, let me suggest:

Call the field that hosted the tournament and demand your registration fee back. I know each tournament is different, but registration fees are always a few hundred dollars at the least and if your team had made a mistake (like forgetting your passes, or getting stuck somewhere and missing a game) there would be a fine, possibly of several hundred dollars.


Alisa said...

Well said- I am sure this is a hot topic!
I agree with those that said you should see about getting your registration fee back.
I can picture Kellen smiling and having a great time despite all the "drama!"

Anonymous said...

This is why my kids play rec sports. All the fun that the "serious" players have without all of the insanity and travel. My kids play for excercise, for learning about being on a team, for love of the game. Of course I have no delusions that any of them will be financing college or a dream home for me off their athletic prowness.

So many parents have taken something great (kids sports) and ruined it. And it isn't just ball sports. You should check out the dance moms one day for a real eyefull. And don't even get me started on cheer moms!

Cindi said...

At Kellen's age, it SHOULD still be about having fun. Society forces today's kids to grow up WAY too early and that's contributing to all kinds of problems.

Thank goodness you and the rest of the parents on Kellen's team are on the same page with this.

Anonymous said...

My children are not allowed to play team sports. As a family we do many other sports and activities though. We chose to not deal with being told where we needed to be and missing out on family activities due to games and practices. Many of our friends live and die by what their kids coaches dictate. Weekends and vacations are sacred to us and we have fun. Its nice to be able to pick up and go away for a weekend without worrying about who needs to be where. And my kids love not being tied down like their friends.

Dianna in Louisiana said...

What a great post Kristie.... the "A" team losing to the same team, with the same score as the "B" team..... TOO, TOO Funny.... the cherry on top to a great weekend that you guys will probably never forget.

Anonymous said...

Some things never change...all three of my kids played competitive soccer in Texas and Georgia. It was the same in both states - thankfully not all of the time, and not on all the teams that my kids played on. It is hard to remain the grown up when you are faced with grown ups that are acting like obnoxious children - and yes, a lot of times the apple does not fall far from "that" tree. And I completely understand the feeling from other parents valuing what their kids are doing over yours. My favorite memory from my son's soccer team experience was that he initially was on a team like your sons - the "B" team. Those boys, for the most part were great, and encouraged each other. Over the course of 5-6 years, the kids that truly didn't have the want or skill dropped off, our kids got better (thanks to good coaching and our boys' determination and improving skill), and kids from other "A" teams came over because they got tired of the drama and abusiveness of some of the "A" teams out there. They developed into an excellent team of their own. Stick to your guns - the boys that truly love the sport will continue to improve with the help of good coaching and parent support. And like you said - they are only 11 years old - there is so much development that is going to take place and some boys will surprise you (and themselves) as they grow, develop, mature and improve. On another note, I used to just roll my eyes at the parents that had to put their kids on the best teams, because they were concerned about scholarships. Incredible. Hang in there and try to close your eyes and turn a deaf ear to the bad. It is all about the love of the sport - whatever it is.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, competitive sports! We have a love/hate relationship with it all. We played a team that did not speak english and WOW was that interesting. They were telling our boys off in some other language that we just did not get. I was one of the worst. It is good to know you are with a great group of kids who enjoy each other on and off the field. Glad the hotel was a redeeming factor.
Oh, and I am secretly glad the other obnoxious boys were beat. A little humility never hurts.
Tammy in Ohio

Anonymous said...

OOPs, it was supposed to be "it was one of the worst." Not "I". Good heavens, I would rather be hit with lightning than be the loud mouth fool at a game!
Tammy in Ohio

Anonymous said...

This is why I kept my boys on rec teams. The compeptitive league is just that, competitive.

Unfortunately, rough play and yellow cards are part of the game. One of my friends that had kids in the competitive league told me that if her kids didn't get a yellow card in every game, they didn't feel like they were trying hard enough. Wait until Kellen is in the 16-18 year-old age group. The roughness sometimes follows them out to the parking lot. Many of the kids drive themselves to the game, so their parents aren't there to calm things down.

Sad to say, even at 11, there are parents thinking, "only 6 more years before they'll be looking for college scholarships". In our area, you can't get on a high school team unless you've played competitive. Of those kids, only a few get picked for the varsity team and even fewer get college scholarships. Parents know this and they want to give their kid every advantage early on.

Donna said...

We had one of those days in U7 REC!! Not sure where they found a 6-year-old who was a foot taller than everybody else and had the coordination of a competitive player, but their coach left him in at forward all four quarters despite the fact that they were ahead by 4 goals (not that anybody keeps score in our league...) and we spent 95% of the game within 20 feet of our own goal. He took out my son and another player with balls that were kicked as hard as I could kick one. And when we replaced our keeper with a very inexperienced kid (after the other keeper took the shot to the breadbasket), our new keeper, not understanding what the coach wanted him to do, put the ball down. As he did so the opposing coach screamed at Goliath to get it, which he promptly did and screamed it right by our goalie, who had not even turned around yet. Did I mention they are SIX????? Didn't help that our referee was all of about 12 years old. The other coach pretty much led him around by the nose. Sad.

Bubba&SistersMom said...

Urgh....I remember the time my daughter (age 6) had to take the field against an all boys team (it was a tournament..we usually played girls) with the parents shouting over and over "Kick their butts"...and they did. We pulled our girls before one got seriously hurt due to their aggressive play. I wasn't sure whether to cry or open a serious can of "mamma whoop a#@.

jbaj said...

Kids learn sportsmanship from the parents AND the coaches. When you are fortunate enough to get a coach who believes in good sportmanship and that sports are supposed to be "gasp" fun then you have won half the battle. Because usually the die hard parents won't want to be on that team! Congrats to Kellen and his team for doing so well!

Lucy and Ethel said...

Know this story well from football (hubby coaches high school, and son just finished playing college and is now helping coach) - it can be maddening!!!

Really have enjoyed following your story, and we're sharing an award -


Stephanie D. said...

OK - I am screaming with laughter b/c you know I've lived this life for the last 10 years! I'm so glad that Kellen had a good time and believe me when I say that you WILL miss these times when they are gone. (Think Trace Adkins' song, "You're gonna miss this"). I so enjoyed the out of town tourneys and wish that I had some of that time back - win or lose! :)

Stephanie D. said...

OK - sorry - had to post one more comment. I went back and read all the comments posted and I have to say that every sports experience does NOT have to be crappy!

I am the parent of a 19 year old son who is in college on a FULL scholarship due to his club soccer experience. YES - it does happen and we are living proof that some competitive leagues are well run and have a lot of success stories. Did we spend a lot of money over a 4 year period of time for him to play HIGH level soccer, yes. Am I paying for college now? NO. LOL - I've already paid it.

My son now plays Division I soccer and still loves soccer. Shoot - we drove up to Maryland last weekend to see his college team play and had a marvelous time.

His club experience was awesome, with great parents & a wonderful coach. SO I must tell some of the earlier posters, not all competitive sports teams/coaches can be painted with the same brush and like everything else in life... what works for one family might not work for another family, but it doesn't make it wrong or EVIL.


Trish in Leesburg, VA said...

I agree- grownups totally need to set a better example. Glad the A team ended with the same score against the team you played. They need a reality check.