Monday, May 23, 2011
I'm pretty sure most of us have had this experience. We're ready to leave the house for soccer practice, or we may have just arrived at the fields, and suddenly there is a complete and inexplicable meltdown on the part of our child. One second we were laughing about the way the dog begged and the next second our child is screaming and flailing uncontrollably. Our queries go unanswered except for a rise in the pitch of the screams. Whatever is the matter will have to wait for discovery until things calm down.
Last summer the big meltdown was because my granddaughter didn't like her pink socks. When I figured it out, I got a pair of adult white socks for her. They extended up to her waist and the heel flopped several inches out the back of her cleat, but her fashion concern wasn't with fit; it was with hue. Robbie went crazy once because he became acutely aware of the label on his shorts rubbing on the small of his back. He rolled on the ground clutching his back and howling in a perfect imitation of Linda Blair in "The Exorcist". I have seen kids lose it over seeing a bee, bringing the wrong water bottle, dropping a cracker on the ground, or believing a goose on the far side of the field was going to attack.
Psychologists could read a lot into these monumental collapses generated by such little worries, citing extreme anxiety over competition or insecurity over separating from parents. Anxiety may play a role, but in my many years of observations and personal experiences, most kids seem to have one or two of these meltdowns during the course of their adolescence that spring from minor issues and resolve into complete peace. Parents shouldn't be too quick to react in a way that feeds into the behavior lending it more importance than it deserves. In other words, don't connect it to the activity by asking loaded questions such as "are you scared to go?" or "do you hate soccer?" Certainly, weekly reluctance to run out to teammates could be a signal that the child isn't ready for that much independent play or that something is amiss in the dynamics with teammates and coaches. You can judge that best by watching practices. But the occasional meltdown seems to be a rite of passage for most young players fed by exhaustion, sugar crashes, and growth spurts.
Once I put white socks on Siobhan and clipped the waistband tag from Robbie's shorts, peace and joy quickly followed, and they trotted gleefully out to the soccer field. Making the proper diagnosis necessary to resolve the situation involved several minutes of listening to syllables exhaled during hysteria and connecting the dots. But once I said, "Do you want different socks?" the siren shut off instantly, there was a relieved nod of the head, and tears gave way to a smile. In most cases the reason for the chaos is innocuous but nearly impossible to ascertain. It requires deciphering that foreign language of sobs which have variable pronunciations. But once discovered, the answer assures tranquility without drama.
Speaking of drama, FC Barcelona and Manchester United will play out an old rivalry in a new venue. On May 28, the teams will meet at Wembley stadium in London for the UEFA Championship. They have met twice before for a UEFA championship, 1991 with Man U triumphing in Sir Alex Ferguson's first European championship with the squad, and again in 2009 with Barcelona taking the cup. They have played one another outside of the championship ten times sharing three wins apiece and taking draws on the remaining four. Obviously the teams are well-matched and should offer a spectacular competition on May 28.
I encourage you to watch the match with your children. Use the experience to both enjoy a great soccer contest and to understand more about the game. Have each viewer pick a player to watch exclusively during the game to see how the player moves off the ball and how that player creates plays. Also study the referees, especially when it comes to offside calls and out of bound balls since these situations cause the most confusion. Take note too of the physicality of the play. Watching the best of the best play gives viewers the opportunity to really get to know the game. Students of the game are usually better players of the game. The match can be seen on FOX television at 2:00 p.m. ET (match begins approximately 2:45 p.m.). You don't need any special sports package or even cable package to see the game, so it's a perfect opportunity for everyone to be able to watch. The pageantry prior to the game rivals the Super Bowl hype and Wembley offers a dramatic venue with its giant arch. Make this drama your Memorial Day weekend tradition!