Do you want the Coach talk or the Dad talk?

Courtesy of Design With Vinyl

I admit it, I am a horrible father but that is OK, at least my kids are always told the truth. Not that what I said was all that horrible but by today’s parenting standards, I should probably be reported to social services.

This story begins the other weekend when my daughter and her team were playing in the first Cup Game of the year. It was the first of 4 games played through the season to determine which teams will play in the league championships in April.

To date the girls had been batting 500 alternating between playing brilliantly or abysmally depending on the weekend but it is understandable. It is a new team, none of the girls knew or have played with each other before September so they needed some time to get get things together. The main thing is that they are having fun and and I have been really enjoying watching them play.

For this cup game, the coach wanted the brilliant team to show up so he stressed lots of rest, a good breakfast pre game and wanted  all hands on the pitch 45 minutes early for warm up so he could get them wound up for the game.

It was a chilly morning and things were slow to warm up but all our girls were there bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to go. As our opponents began to show up, I began to worry. Our team is filled with light and welter weights so we tend to get trampled by the bigger teams and these girls were  BIG. They could also put the ball on net from well beyond the 18 yard box which us unusual for U13’s

At opening kick off we were all over them. We may be small but we were fast and had them running with our speed and crisp accurate passing. In the first 10 minutes our opponents didn’t even get over half. We sent several shots wide, one off the post and one shot actually broke the plane of the goal line but not all the way across the line. It was almost a perfect opening 10 but then it happened. Our defence was pressing too far up and they cleared one deep and sent one of their speedy strikers in to hammer one home.

After that our girls began to bumble about the field like they were heavily medicated. Running completely stopped and unless the ball came directly to them they wouldn’t make any effort to play it. It was like someone flipped a switch. We spent the rest of the game playing just bad enough to lose. We put one more ball off the post with seconds left but ended up losing 1 – nil.

By games end, I was admittedly beside myself but I kept my mouth shut at the time. Partly because I don’t like psycho soccer parents and didn’t wish to be one myself but more importantly, my wife would have killed me if I said anything within earshot of the other parents. After the game, the majority of parents immediately ran over to the girls and began serving up false platitudes about their play, trying to mitigate their child’s disappointment and prop up their fragile self esteem.

I however stood back and waited for my child to finish the post game rituals and then we walked back to the car. Once we got in the car I and started to drive away I asked the question. “Do you want the Coach talk or the Dad talk?” It was actually a trick question because she would have gotten the coach talk regardless.

Wisely she chose the coach talk and I opened with, “That had to be the most appalling display of effort I have seen in more than 20 years” then I went on to “There is a reason why I stopped coaching kids sports and that was a perfect example why” With barely a breath between sentences I jumped to “The only reason you lost that game was because you guys were too lazy to put in the effort it would take to win and that is unacceptable by any measure” I finished up with If you had played the entire game like you did in the first 10 minutes and still lost, then I would be proud of your effort and give you credit for trying but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.”  With that I was done, all without raising my voice but the point was driven home.

Now I am sure many will read this and recoil in horror but it was the truth and for me to tell my twelveteen daughter that they played wonderfully would be a lie and serve no purpose other than teach my child that putting in a half ass’ed effort is good enough. I am a firm believer that sporting skills are life skills and if you can’t make the effort on the field, chances are you won’t make much of an effort in life either. This was not just a soccer game, it was a life lesson.

True to form, the following week the girls walked on the field and handedly beat  a better team then the one they lost to in the Cup game. All the while the parents were going on about how hard they played in that cup game and it was just so sad that they lost… yada – yada – yada. When they looked to me for my contribution, I couldn’t help but say “I am not sure what game you were watching but other than the first 10 minutes, I thought they played brutal”. What was funny was that a couple of the fathers who were quietly avoiding the conversation, jumped in once I opened that can of worms and said “Yah! you know you are right!” At that point the conversation quickly changed focus back to the game the girls were currently playing but it brings up a couple burning questions.

At what point did telling your child the truth about their performance become verboten and what good comes from telling your child they did GREAT! when they didn’t? It seems ridiculous to me that we live in a world where adults think children are incapable of coping with the truth about who they are and what they are doing. Of course ripping a strip off of them for their performance is inappropriate but so is outright lying to them.

I say enough with the mollycoddling already. Kids can handle the truth but then again, perhaps its the parents who can’t?


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