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Blending In: Soccer Stepmom

With two soccer-playing stepdaughters in the house, I've easily watched more than a hundred soccer games. I've seen rude, bullying players attack my girls on the field and I've listened to taunting from parents of opposing team members. But when it comes to bad behavior, today's game took the cake.

My 13-year-old's team, coached by my husband, was up against the best team in the league. We worked hard to hold our own and kept the game scoreless for more than an hour. It was both a physical and emotional battle; I saw girls from the other team push, elbow and curse at our girls and even scream at the teenaged referees and at my husband. And there was no doubt in my mind where they had learned their tactics.

"What is wrong with you?!" One of our opponents' fathers screamed and stood up from the stands, rushing out onto the field and pointing at a ref. "How could you make that call?! What is your problem?!"

"Who does he think he is?" Another father grumbled loudly about my husband. "He's getting special treatment from the refs!"

At the end of the still-scoreless game, one of our players was headed for the untended goal with a breakaway ball when another girl ran up and tripped her. Our player got elbowed in the mouth and had to leave the field. With less than 10 seconds left, we scored on a penalty kick and won the game. As the players' parents whooped and cheered, a mother from the opposing team seated nearby shouted, "Well, if you have to win it that way..!!!" She shook off her husband, who had grabbed her arm. "I don't care! That was cheap!" she shrieked.

Ah, recreational soccer. Our league is supposed to be one in which it doesn't matter if the kids win or lose, but even on our perfectly manicured suburban soccer fields, competitiveness abounds. And the young children playing on the sidelines silently watch as the adults lose their shit, soaking up their words and actions like sponges.

I want to say something sometimes to these overzealous parents, particularly now that my two-year-old is one of the children watching their tirades. Yet I've stayed silent, partly because I'm not sure the heat of the moment is a good time to offer my two cents, and partly because, to be perfectly honest, I don't want to get involved in a shouting match with a bottled blonde bitch in a tacky fuchsia running suit.

On the other hand, by not saying anything, I feel like I'm allowing it to continue. If more parents challenged this kind of behavior, calmly, politely and firmly, wouldn't these parents be shamed into silence? A simple, "That's enough. There are children listening to you," would probably do the trick. So why can't I summon the courage to just say what everyone else is thinking?

This time, we were lucky. After hearing complaints about the team from other coaches, a league official came to our game and saw all of the opposing team's antics. He held a meeting afterward with referees and board members and they agreed to closely monitor the team's future games and to warn them to clean up their act. I can only hope they include the parents in their admonitions. I did notice that the official was standing right behind the most egregious offenders, and he looked, well, pissed.

Meanwhile, we're playing the same team again in a few weeks. And I'm thinking of buying football helmets for my daughter and me to wear on the sidelines, just in case.

column added on 2006-04-30 :: ::

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