Monday, November 12, 2012

Another season ends and this time I'm happy

Ordinarily this is the time of year I write wistfully about the end of another soccer season and the wait for next year to arrive. This year's narrative is a bit different, however.

For the last six years I have coached my daughters' soccer teams. They both began playing when they were three and I coached them through two years Pre-K and one year of kindergarten soccer. It doesn't seem possible that my oldest just finished up her sixth year of soccer and that my baby just finished her third year.

For the past four years I have been in charge of the youth soccer program at my girls' church. I got involved because I liked the philosophy of the league and the other coaches I worked with. Being in charge takes its toll. The month-long run-up to the season is a massive pain trying to get through registration, forming teams and getting the fields ready for the season.

As a rule, once the season begins the headaches are over. Sure, there's striping fields and unlocking everything on Saturday mornings (and breaking down the fields that night or the next morning). For eight weeks I get to watch a group of kids run around chasing a soccer ball having a good time. It is such a pleasant diversion from reality.

This year, however, was different. Early in the season, as I was sitting on the couch watching the Longhorns play after our morning game, I got a call from the head of the league. There had been an incident at a game. A parent got into an argument with a referee and it got so bad the game had to be halted and the head of the league was called out from her office. Oh, and did I mention it was kindergarten game?

Instead of cooperating with me, the coaches circled the wagons and claimed that the parent was in the right and that the referee and the league had overreacted to the incident. Not once did anyone associated with the team acknowledge that the parent had stepped over the line. I ended up suspending the parent for one game for his actions and the coaches for one game for not cooperating. I thought the matter was over. Oh, did I mention the league wanted to kick the team out as a result of the incident and the reaction afterward?

Then last week a series of e-mails began circulating claiming that the parents and the coaches were mistreated and that the entire incident was a "misunderstanding." The e-mails circulated among parents and administrators at the church and school. One parent, who works for a prominent Houston attorney with her husband, sent an e-mail that seemed to be a veiled threat to pursue legal action. Oh, did I mention that the coaches sign an ethics agreement that coaches, parents, spectators and fans are to respect and obey the referees?

I was astounded. No one, including the administrators, seemed to understand the problem. No one seemed to grasp that the message being sent to the kids was there is no need to accept responsibility for your actions if you raise a big enough stink. Oh, did I mention that in the six years I've been involved with the league there has never been an incident like this one involving any team from my girls' church? And did I mention that the team involved was made up of kids who went to the elementary school down the street?

I have volunteered my time over the last six years to ensure that these kids can play soccer. But those days are over. I have better things to do with my time than deal with this group of parents and their sense of privileged entitlement. I have resigned my position.

I have never before been so glad that a soccer season was over. And that's sad.

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