Check out the weekly blogs

Online education from US Youth Soccer

US Youth Soccer Intagram!

Check out the national tournament database

Sports Authority


Capri Sun


Wilson Trophy Company

Nesquik - Great For Team Snacks!

Nike Soccer - Play Now!

Play Positive Banner

Print Page Share

Parents Blog

Susan Boyd blogs on every Monday.  A dedicated mother and wife, Susan offers a truly unique perspective into the world of a "Soccer Mom". 


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Susan Boyd

Anyone associated with youth sports knows the broad spectrum of emotions and behaviors on display at competitions. We’ve all seen moments of tremendous restraint, professionalism and dignity. We’ve also witnessed embarrassing scenes of tantrums, condescension, anger and taunting. Contests bring out the best and worst in us as we pin our hopes and self-esteem on wins and suffer through losses. Over Memorial Day weekend I traveled to Ohio to watch two grandsons in their respective baseball tournaments in Dayton and Columbus. Right on schedule, the emotions came out.

Let’s get the ugly out of the way. First, the ugliest behavior didn’t come from anyone at the tournaments, but definitely affects the integrity of sport. Fourteen FIFA board of director members and sports marketing agents were arrested and accused of bribery and corruption. The trickle-down effect on youth sports will be both financial, as sponsors pull out, and disruptive as a tarnished image of soccer gives parents and kids pause. We’ve seen scandals come from powerful people in athletics that left a stain on the sport, especially for impressionable youth. In Milwaukee, the boy-next-door image of Brewer Ryan Braun suffered first through a false denial that he had used performance enhancing drugs then proof that he in fact had. He has rehabilitated his respectability, but the poor kids who had flocked to buy his jersey when he was exalted now felt shame wearing his number. The ugliness that greed and entitlement can bring to a sport demeans the spirit of play.

Ugly sprang up during my oldest grandson’s last game. There was a call against the opposing team. I can’t even recall what that was, because it led to a series of spiraling bad outcomes. The other team’s coach protested the call, and when that failed, continued to yammer disapproval at the umpires from the dugout. Both officials told him to stop at separate times, so by the end of the inning we all thought it would be water under the bridge. Not so. Any close call went our way, strikes became balls for us (nearly half our batting order earned walks in one inning), and as a result we got nine runs that inning. Out of frustration, the opposing pitchers began to throw at our batters, putting even more runners on base. We won in the 4th inning due to a slaughter rule. We needed one more run in the 4th to end the game, and through a series of walks and hit players we got that run. What made this incident so ugly was first that the game didn’t matter and second that the officials colluded to insure our win as retaliation for the boorish behavior of the opposition’s coach. The game was a “consolation” one for teams that didn’t make it to the play-offs. The tournament organizers wanted teams to get a value out of traveling to Dayton, so provided them with a fourth game. What should have been a fun scrimmage got blemished by ego and temper. For my grandson’s team there was little joy in winning because it wasn’t about their skill and persistence. Since the umpires engineered the victory for their own bruised egos, they hurt both youth teams. The adults should have risen above pettiness for the sake of the kids and the spirit of the game, but they were too fixated on being the alpha adult in this circus.

Bad showed up in the usual ways. Although there is no rule against it, teams taunting their opponents from the dugout defies the spirit of youth play. Coaches should lead by teaching and example. Rather than condoning jeering from the team against the competition, they should be teaching encouragement for their players whether on offense or defense. We saw taunting twice, and both times it was really uncomfortable, especially when it occurred in a U-11 game. Bad was demonstrated by the parents who coached from the bleachers, by kids reduced to tears on the mound because they lost their edge and coaches kept them in, by teams knowingly using illegal bats, by coaches loudly and publicly criticizing players, and by parents worrying more about winning than about watching their kids have fun. All too often we accept these bad behaviors because they are so common and we ourselves may engage in them. When immersed in a tournament environment, parents feel the anxiety of a trio or more of games in a weekend that can quickly catapult a team to the finals or drop them in the basement. That anxiety can translate to impulsive outbursts that don’t represent the dignity and positivity that we should maintain in youth sports. We have all been guilty of second-guessing the coach, openly criticizing players, and making demands of our own kids. There’s no doubt that the bad side of our personalities can quickly and unexpectantly creep out. I’ve often wished I could just inhale the things I said out loud without thinking of the impact of those comments on the people around me. We all need to be willing to apologize when we overstep propriety, though many of us don’t. Keeping in mind that our children will mimic our behaviors, we need to try our best to contain those opinions and outbursts. That goes double for officials and coaches. These are the authority figures in our children’s world that most impact their sports behaviors. When the authorities treat the players and the game with respect, kids recognize the importance of exercising their own respect towards their teammates, opponents, and officials.

I saved the good for last because despite the cloud of misdeeds and misbehaviors at the tournament, the overriding mood was positive. We need to acknowledge blight so we can eradicate it. However, we can use the best of a moment as the guiding light for the future. We did witness many examples of extraordinary good sportsmanship. Parents focused on the positives during tough competition and congratulated opponents for good hitting and pitching. Coaches handled disagreements calmly and rationally. When a player was called out at first because he tripped before the base, he burst into tears. Parents from both teams applauded his effort and gave him support as he dejectedly trudged to the dugout. The next time he was up, he got support from the crowd who encouraged him to get a hit. When he reached first base safely, everyone cheered. My U-11 grandson’s team won their first game 19 – 1. It was a final inning burst of hot bats that drove the score from 7 – 1. Naturally the opposing team became frustrated and crestfallen. So after the final out, my grandson’s team quickly gave a cheer to their opponents and the coach publically praised the challengers for their perseverance. As he told them, “It’s easy to keep playing when you’re winning. You showed character in this loss. You should be proud.” These words exemplify the role model adults can be. When a team ran out of water and sports drinks, the other team shared some bottles from its cooler. After watching six games, in four of them both teams left laughing and smiling. When the U-11 team lost a game by six runs, they still raced their coach to the outfield afterwards leaping and shouting with total joy despite the loss. That means they had fun, which is the real point of any youth sport. Only a small percentage of those who start out in a sport will still be playing it by age 15. The statistics show that kids shift their interests after age 14. So these years of playing should ultimately be about enjoying themselves, forming friendships, and learning moral lessons that will carry them throughout life.

I know that both my grandsons will remember the wins and losses from this tournament for a long time. They still talk about games they played two years ago. However, hopefully they will also remember the good from the weekend and block out the bad. What I fear is that the really ugly events made a strong impression tainting all the games they played. We parents need to make those ugly and bad moments teachable, encouraging our children to recognize how the behavior of a few ruined the experience for all. We can direct their attention away from the worst bits and remind them of the best. Most importantly we shouldn’t be the ones creating and/or condoning the uncomfortable experiences. If we can mitigate the outcomes by approaching offending adults, then we should. But if that would only fan the fire, then we should let our children know that we don’t approve. We can offer them positive alternatives so that they learn it won’t always be sunshine and roses but the good things do exist if we just seek them out.

Comments (0)


The Good Ol’ Summertime

Susan Boyd

Memorial Day weekend symbolically, though not meteorologically, indicates the start of summer. Here in Wisconsin, unfortunately, we citizens plaintively are still hoping for spring. I drove by our subdivision pool today and saw that it was all set up for the Memorial weekend opening in a display of pure optimism. Of course, we are slated to have temperatures in the 50s and thunderstorms. Typical. Nevertheless, once the weekend passes, kids exhibit the end-of-school wiggles, poster board shortages appear as projects are due, and parents begin the panic about how to occupy the kids for three months. Summer is coming despite the temperatures, and we need to think about how we will spend it.

Many youth soccer families know that summer can be crazy with practices, games and tournaments. Often kids will find themselves playing in state leagues, regional leagues, ethnic leagues, and as guest players and possibly even attending a soccer camp. Families can drown in the summer soccer schedule. I speak from experience, having two sons who played all summer long nearly every day for most of the day. It was a full-time job just shuttling them from field to field, keeping the various uniforms straight, and coordinating their complex schedules. While they loved playing, I always felt they were missing out on some of the other summer fun stuff with extended family and non-soccer peers. We learned after a few summers that we might need to scale back just to allow for unscheduled play. There were three areas to consider:  1) discovering other enjoyment for the summer 2) learning to say “no” and take time out 3) letting go of the guilt of not being the super soccer family.

Long before summer, we got together as a family to decide how we’d spend the season. We considered all the possibilities – grilling on the deck, swimming, doing “splash day” at the neighborhood pool, fishing, trips, camp, and significantly, other sports. We discussed the various soccer leagues and teams they could join, looked at their schedules, and decided which ones we would forgo in order to have the time to pursue other things. It was difficult because the boys had a passion for soccer, but they also loved to just bike ride and swim, play baseball, and build forts in the woods. They also enjoyed family trips that weren’t attached to a soccer tournament. It might just be a short excursion, but it was a time to connect without the distractions that soccer matches can create and the intrusion of dozens of other players and their families. One summer the boys really wanted to go to baseball camp rather than soccer camp. They loved exercising a different sports brain and set of muscles, although Robbie got frustrated with the pace of the game. By participating in some of the summer activities centered at our community pool, the boys connected with friends who weren’t soccer players and who weren’t even necessarily athletes. They got to joke around doing Marco Polo, learned to do flips off the diving board, and spent some long days on the beach of our lake waiting for a nibble on their fishing poles. It absolutely defined the “lazy, crazy days of summer” for them.

Since we carved out time in the summer for other things, we had to say no to a few soccer opportunities. Bryce and Robbie were popular choices to guest play on teams participating in the explosion of summer tournaments and leagues. They were always flattered to be asked and felt pressure to help out. When you’re a tween and people are telling you that you’ll make the difference in the team winning or losing, it’s difficult to put aside the pride and say no. Likewise, there were several teams that wanted the boys to join them for their summer leagues. They did join a city Hispanic team every year because they enjoyed that competition, which had a festive aspect to it. Extended families attended with picnics. One mother on Robbie’s team always made a big pot of pork tamales for every game, which we all looked forward to. People set up stands that sold replica uniforms, mostly from Mexico, but also from several South American teams. These were surprisingly inexpensive, so the boys became supporters of various Mexican clubs that they still follow. On the other hand, they would sit out local teams that played in other city leagues in order to preserve the time to just be kids. We would also occasionally miss a game or a practice for the teams they did join. We never did that during the fall and spring seasons, but summer was special.

Which brings me to the third point, not feeling guilt. I am a firm believer in commitment. I think children need to learn to be responsible to others and to persevere when things get tough, but we discovered that taking on too many projects in the summer made such commitment a true burden that infringed on just having fun. Two of my grandsons play summer sports and my daughter and her husband insist on them attending every game and practice to the exclusion of other enticing options. I absolutely admire the lesson they are teaching, but I worry that the kids miss out on things. This summer we’re taking our other grandkids to Disney World and wanted to take these grandsons as well, but their sports schedule didn’t allow for it. I understand their position. It took me a while to realize it, but ultimately the memories of family events will be stronger than those of grueling practices and dusty games. Therefore I learned to shake off that deep conscience I had concerning commitment to allow for some wiggle room. We parents can feel tremendous pressure to join in often and regularly, and made to feel oppressive guilt if we decide to opt out occasionally. Every summer my father took six weeks off and we drove as a family all over the United States, Canada, and Mexico for a month and a half vacation. There were seven of us packed in a station wagon, the kind with the last bench seat facing backwards, and no air conditioning because my father never spent a dime on “frills” including a radio and white wall tires. We usually camped in a huge tent he had sewn himself from two tents. While I didn’t enjoy putting up and breaking camp, I remember fondly every one of those trips seeing every state at one time or another. We had fights, naturally, and occasionally got bored, but then we’d arrive at a glacier in Montana or a cave in Kentucky and all was forgotten. It was those memories that ultimately informed my decision to take the time every summer to make different memories than how many goals were scored or who won the tournament. We did face opposition from the families who definitely piled on the guilt, but it was important to step aside from the sport we all loved and that dominated our lives the other nine months and just breathe a different air.

However, you decide to spend your summer I can only advise that you make sure it’s exactly the break from the pressures of school that your kids want. We can’t let summer slip away with our children feeling they never tasted pure freedom from obligations. Europe has the right idea where most countries take the month of August off, even the soccer teams. Shops, museums, and restaurants close, and families flock to vacation spots in the mountains or on the Mediterranean. One summer when Bryce was 13 and Robbie was 12, the boys got together with the other boys on the court and built an elaborate, albeit shaky, series of skateboard jumps that they placed along the roadway and attempted all kinds of twists and tricks. One afternoon they were so involved in the project, improving the jumps with more wood and nails then leaping over and over to achieve some perfect form that I just didn’t call them in to get ready for practice at the fields. We just blew off practice, and they played until there was no more light, then had the idea that we parents should turn our cars to face the street and illuminate the course with our headlights. We all sat out in the warm summer evening, laughing together, clapping at particularly good moves, and just enjoying the time as friends and neighbors, cutting it off reluctantly after an hour so as not to run down all our batteries. The boys still talk about that night. It’s those kinds of memories that are important and should on occasion supersede the responsibilities of soccer.

Comments (0)


Not Easy to Say Goodbye

Susan Boyd

When kids first start playing soccer it’s all about friends and fun. Six-year-olds aren’t thinking about World Cups and professional teams. They may not even be able to name a single soccer player of note. But they love getting out on the field, screeching and running with their buddies. Eventually, they also enjoy the thrill of scoring a goal, high-fiving everyone, and then rushing to the sidelines for a treat after the game. There’s something pure and special about those early years in soccer when the only stress might be getting to the fields on time. Unfortunately, as kids grow so do their differences to the point that eventually friends have to make difficult choices between staying together or leaving. In some cases they have to say goodbye because friends have developed faster in skill or passion and move on to more intense teams, or our kids may be the ones moving on. In other cases, the decision to change teams is driven by finances. When it comes time to separate, no matter the reason, it can be traumatic. How do we decide as a family whether or not to make that break? And should we do it, how do we help our children cope with losing their friends?

The most common reasons for kids to leave a sport are boredom and developing a stronger interest in another activity. It should be an easy choice to quit under these circumstances both for kids and parents, but friendships complicate the break. There’s a strong tug to stay in a safe circle of peers where kids feel accepted. Although we might think this is primarily a female situation, the reality is that boys can feel just as insecure about leaving a circle of friends. Often, boys’ status is established in athletic terms, so even if they hate playing a sport they may be reluctant to give it up. We parents worry about peer pressure, but peer status can be just as powerful and therefore just as detrimental to a child’s development. Kids can make fun of kids who quit teams. This behavior can stem from their own feelings of abandonment from someone they thought was a loyal friend. As parents we need to let our children know that they can’t take a friend’s departure personally. It’s not meant to slight them or diminish the quality of their friendship. It can be difficult to accept that assessment, especially if they have played together for several years. And friendships do end when such a large chunk of children’s free time is spent away from each other.

Parents may also discourage their children from quitting a team due to the same powerful peer influences. They want their kids to be part of the “in-crowd.” I always urge parents to require that kids finish their commitments. Some wise coaches have stated that if you quit now you’ll quit things all your life. So parents should insist their kids finish a season. But if a child shifts focus and wants to try something different, then we shouldn’t stand in their way. Not all kids are meant to be athletes. Certainly kids should continue to participate in physical conditioning, but that may not be on an organized soccer team. Studies indicate that kids who feel comfortable pursuing their favorite interests ultimately have more confidence and self-esteem. While being part of the popular group can be satisfying, it’s less so when kids are ingratiating themselves into the mix. They can feel more like outsiders that way than when not in the troop. However, we also have to be sensitive to friendships.

The nature of growing up means that kids grow apart in interests and skills. But other factors intervene in disrupting friendships. Kids move often these days. My grandsons have lived in four different communities in two different states for the course of their sports life. They’ve had to reestablish themselves each time on teams and in situations where coaches already know and trust certain players. They gave up good friendships in those moves and lost some time when developing as players. However, they also learned patience and humility in those situations. Kids are resilient, so they do make new friends, but there can be pain as friendship dissolve. That can also happen when parents don’t have the means to keep their kids in expensive programs. Those are tough decisions for everyone involved. But ultimately the solvency of the family is worth more than the ego boost of being in a top program. I can name dozens of Robbie’s friends who went on to play college soccer without the benefit of being in expensive clubs. Bryce played in a Serbian club where the cost was only $150 a year plus whatever costs were associated with tournament travel. The club tried to go to tournaments within driving distance, but also that were college scouting tournaments. Writing letters to coaches and providing game film beforehand did entice a number of coaches to come check out games at these tournaments and five players on the team got offers. So parents shouldn’t feel that if their child has talent they are thwarting that talent by not putting their child on a top level club team. However, these decisions can mean that friendships get strained and even broken. Parents need to be ready to help facilitate the continuation of friendships if possible or sooth the loss of a friend.

The most painful way that friends can be separated is when one excels more than another. It’s difficult to be on either side of the equation. We expect that once kids get closer to high school age that they will face the dilemma of either being selected or not for their friends’ team. We hope they are better equipped to handle not only the possible disappointment of being rejected but the ensuing disconnect from long-term friends. However, more and more clubs decide to create powerhouse teams as early as age 10. If our children are among those being “recruited” there can be a great deal of resentment from other teammates and parents. And if our kids aren’t selected there’s disappointment intermingled with leaving friends. It’s a difficult quandary. While we want our kids to have the best opportunities if they are skilled enough to take them, we also recognize the inherent unfairness of the practice and the detriment to friendships. This is happening at an age when teams are supposed to be talent neutral until they could be selected at U-11. Robbie’s club decided to create a U-11 team from two U-9 teams that had a number of strong players. We parents were skeptical until we were assured that with the larger roster at U-11 no kid would be left behind. However, it didn’t happen that way. One boy and one boy only was left off the roster. We protested, but his parents were so hurt they decided to leave the club. These were supposed to be his friends, and now they had betrayed him. The episode casts an ugly light on a fact of youth sports – friendships can shift abruptly and unpleasantly. The longer kids stay in the sport the more this scenario will play out. Giving up the comfort of a community even if being promoted can be difficult.

The good news is that with social media it’s easier for kids to stay in touch and maintain friendships. Robbie regularly texts with his friends from various clubs. He only played a year at UC-Santa Barbara but he has strong friendships with teammates from there, returning periodically to California to visit with them. On Bryce’s recreation team, the players were classmates and neighbors, bonding strongly. However, one boy was not athletic at all and quickly fell behind. His mother was distraught because she saw the handwriting on the wall. She didn’t want him to be, as she considered it, ostracized by his lack of athleticism. But he was extremely artistic and she herself was an artist. Eventually she realized that he was happier in creative pursuits, and he even expressed to his mom that he didn’t like soccer. Leaving the team meant he did leave the group of players, but several of them continued their friendships with him because they shared other interests, attended school together, and met at the community pool in the summer. In fact, in middle school Bryce reconnected with him because they both loved making videos and spent one summer creating a film using several of the former teammates as actors.

Friendship can be fluid, but can also be an influencing condition for many kids and their parents. Sports teams are meant to create strong bonds among players, and those bonds may signify a social status as well. Therefore leaving a team for any reason becomes problematic when it comes to psychological impacts. If someone is cut from a team, there’s not only the loss of the companionship of teammates but the sense of failure and inadequacy. If kids move on to a higher level, they may feel the loss of the support system they had, guilt over leaving, and harbor a lack of confidence going into the new arena. As parents we need to be sensitive to how losing a team can affect our kids and be willing to listen to their concerns. We can also help them continue to foster those relationships by having kids over to share popcorn and a movie or just hang out. The parent network can be invaluable at times like this. Keeping in touch with the parents of old teammates allows us to facilitate the kids maintaining the friendship. Don’t forget old teammates when making the invitation list for a birthday or summer pool party. Letting kids express frustration without interjecting our opinion can be invaluable in diffusing bad feelings. Likewise we need to be open to them making other choices and not making popularity a deciding factor in how our kids move forward. Putting pressure on them to stay on a team for social reasons can thwart passions they should be expressing and they will undoubtedly eventually find their friends abandoning them anyway. They are young for such a short time, they should enjoy it with friends as long as possible.

Comments (0)


It Takes a Village

Susan Boyd

We raise our kids within the confines of social, institutional and family discipline. Every day we turn over the shaping of our children’s moral compass and boundaries to teachers, coaches, clergy, police, neighbors, media, peers, and outside pundits in the field of child rearing. We can set limits, model behaviors, instruct, and demand, but kids ultimately have so many influences that they begin to pick and choose which ideas suit them best and will get them in the least amount of trouble. Peer pressure in particular, often fueled by media stimuli, can be a powerful arbiter of behavior. Parents have a difficult time getting our kids to understand and accept what we consider to be appropriate conduct when there are so many opposing forces out there. It may take a village to help raise our kids, but the village may also hinder how we want them to develop.

I grew up raised by everyone in our family circle. Aunts, uncles, grandparents never hesitated to put in their two cents’ worth, even right in front of my parents. Neighbors would freely give me a swat on the behind if I trampled in their garden or threw dirt at their kids, and they had no fear that my mother would report them to the police. Instead, she was grateful that they had handled it immediately. But we’ve moved from an acceptance of that type of discipline. In fact, if someone accuses our kids of something, all too often the knee-jerk reaction is “not my kid.” We’ve become apologists for behavior that used to be completely unacceptable because when our kids are bad, it reflects badly on us. I’m not in favor of corporal punishment, and I’m sure the psychological studies on how it affects our children’s self-image are true, but I also know that most of my peers grew up feeling the sting of a hand or spoon on our hind quarters and we still managed to become an innovative, confident generation.

Recently during the unrest in Baltimore a video went viral of a mother running out into the crowd of young rioters who were throwing bottles and rocks to drag her 16-year-old son back home, cuffing him several times around the ears. As she put it, “I didn’t raise him to be disrespectful to the police…and I didn’t want him to be another [victim].”  Her tiger mom response drew lots of opposing points of view equally divided between those who praised her for giving her son an important lesson and dragging him to safety and those who saw her attack as damaging and an inappropriate way to handle the situation. As I told my boys – I’d have done the same thing minus the slapping. They nodded knowingly. On the other hand, would she have wanted the village to intervene?  If her neighbor had seen the teen and gone to drag him back, would the mother have been thankful or angry?  It gets complicated.

When it comes to youth sports there’s an entire extra layer of discipline that’s added, sometimes not as we would hope. Coaches can forget that their charges are not adults, using the saltiest of language when motivating or chastising them. It’s uncomfortable for parents, who want to respect the authority of a coach to train, but want to protect their kids from influences they feel are improper. One time my 6-year-old grandson was playing a game on my phone. When he achieved a high score, he could input his name on a roster of winners. The game was a very innocent non-violent offering from Disney, so imagine my surprise when I saw the top scorers list where all the names were four letters long and not names at all. When I asked my grandson, he admitted with a sly grin to inputting the titles. I knew his parents didn’t swear, didn’t allow him to see anything with swearing (even bleeped out), and he went to a Catholic school. “Where did you learn these words?” fully expecting to find out he had some peers who used them. “My T-ball coach says them all the time.” How can a parent combat that? You can approach the coach, point out that his or her language makes your child uncomfortable, and hope things improve. If the reaction isn’t positive, then you can talk to the club president or board. Or you can use it as a teachable moment – explain to our children how limiting and disgusting such language is and let them know you don’t approve, especially if they should start repeating the words.

A more pressing problem would be if the coach gets abusive. Unfortunately, it happens all too often. Coaches can be very passionate people, but when that passion spills over to physically or verbally accosting kids, we need to step in. That type of behavior is not an acceptable response no matter the age, but particularly for our youngest players. One coach berated an 11-year-old player for five minutes as the reason the team lost the game, totally devastated the trembling boy. His parents were angry, but so were several of us. We took it upon ourselves to confront the coach so the parents didn’t have to. Therefore, the coach couldn’t rationalize that the parents had sour grapes motivating their complaint. Instead he had to listen to us parents who witnessed the attack and agreed it was cruel and unnecessary. That’s how the village can step up in a supportive and significant way. Even if our own children aren’t victims of an aggressive coach, we should be advocates for the kids who are. It’s difficult because we don’t want our intervention to affect our children’s role on a team. Coaches have a tremendous amount of power leading to intimidation, so if parents can join forces and come to the coach calmly and kindly, that intimidation is voided.

Taking the protection and/or discipline of other people’s children can be tricky. I can shift into “mom” mode when I see trouble. I took the cigarettes of three pre-teen boys sitting next to me at a Brewers’ game (when you could still smoke in the stadium) and told them I didn’t think their mother would approve. Maybe she would have, or maybe she would have resented me stepping in, but I felt I needed to at least give those kids pause the next time they lit up. I also wanted to go give whatever shopkeeper sold those kids the cigarettes a piece of my mind. The village is only as strong as its weakest members. On the flipside not everyone is on the same page when it comes to the standards we want for our children. Entrusting our children to others can be tricky. We don’t want to be handing out a list of expectations for the kids:  No candy, only G or PG movies, no swearing, no political discussions, etc. We can quickly get a reputation as being overprotective. Therefore, I think that as part of the village we need to check out with other parents if certain things are okay – we plan to go to a PG-13 movie; is that okay with you?  As much as we hate having our kids exposed to things we carefully avoid, we should be sensitive to what other parents want. It can be as simple as making sure team snacks have a peanut-free option, for example, and as significant as helping parents out with carpooling.

On the positive side, youth sports provide some excellent additional training. Kids learn how to cooperate, compromise, win and lose with dignity, avoid cheating, and other important moral lessons. Naturally, as they grow, more and more negative influences will seep into their experiences. These can then become teachable moments. Since my sons are minorities, they faced a fair amount of racial slurs during games. They learned that this was more a way to get into their heads than personal attacks, so eventually they could shut it out. It didn’t make it right that it happened, but it also gave them the resilience to learn which battles to fight. At one college game when Bryce was in goal, the opposing school’s students sat behind the net jeering and cat-calling. At one point they yelled out, not knowing it was true, “Bryce, you’re adopted” obviously believing this would be huge slap in the face. Since everyone on his team knew he was adopted, one defender turned around and shouted back to the students, “Yeah he is and his family is awesome,” while the entire team clapped. Apparently those young men had learned the lessons of support and rejecting intolerance, and I suspect some of the lessons were learned on the field. That’s a village in which I was delighted to be a resident.

Discipline is a personal process for every family. Yet we can’t control the vast majority of time our children require discipline. We have to count on a myriad of other disciplinarians. Usually we can trust those people to do the right thing; after all many of them have their own children whom they raised well. Of course, we’ve all experienced those times when parents don’t manage their own kids, leaving them to run wild in a restaurant, cause trouble at the pool, cry during a movie, and any number of other annoying situations. The question is do we intervene?  We’re part of the larger village, but we may not be a welcomed part. Likewise, we may not appreciate the behavior modeling and discipline of others within our village. Yet it’s difficult to reject someone’s intervention when it’s well-meaning. Even more difficult is figuring out if what another parent accuses our child of doing is valid or not. We don’t want to be so defensive that we miss the bigger picture – our children need to be accountable for their misdeeds. The good news is that youth sports adds a significant and powerful layer of modeling and oversight which is generally very positive in the development of our children’s ethical nature. We should all let it be known that we welcome the oversight of our children by others. Despite the eyes in the back of our heads we can’t see everything. We need to trust family, friends, neighbors, police, teachers, clergy, and strangers to help us out in keeping our children on the straight and narrow, not to mention safe. No village is perfect, but I’m grateful for their assistance.

Comments (0)