Life Lessons From the Sidelines

I shouldn’t be surprised…but I always am when I learn an important life lesson from my sons.

This past weekend, we watched as my soccer-loving son played a double-header match against stormy skies, stopping for lightning only once, but getting wet for a good part of the few hours we were on the fields.

Even in rain, we love watching our boys play the game they love so much.

We won the first game, 2-0. The second game of the double-header started off badly: within the first two minutes of play it was evident that the opposing team was out for a revenge win.

We could forgive some of the slide tackling – the field was slippery with rain. But you can’t blame the slippery field on elbows into backs, shirts tugged by other arms and hands, and from-behind bumps that knock over the fast players.

After the third such incident, without a whistle to call a foul, the parents went a bit nuts.

My son had a fast break with the ball with three defenders chasing close behind. He stepped into the box and went to kick the ball and one of them pushed his back while the second tackled him from behind.

He went down. And didn’t stand up.

When the whistle finally blew, the players on our team took a knee, but the opposing coach called his players off the field for a “timeout coaching session.”

This was the last straw, and I became that grizzly sideline mom and screamed at the coach to have his players “take a knee!”

Youth sports writer and blogger, Bob Cook, writes in his article about this very subject:

“It’s not a written rule that players do this [take a knee], and I couldn’t tell you when this started. But it’s become so ingrained in the sport that when that protocol is breached, people get upset.”

I was upset. But it wasn’t a broken rule, and I should have kept my mouth shut. I immediately regretted yelling, because I was inserting myself into my son’s game, on his turf.

What are our roles, as parents on the sidelines?

To support our players and encourage them in their sport. That’s it.

I crossed a line last week because I felt cheated. I felt that the referee wasn’t protecting my child from the unnecessary roughness from the opposing team. It’s part of the referee’s job to ensure the safety of our kids during a game.

Parents aren’t allowed to run out on the field when their child falls in a heap on the grass. For good reason.

I heard a wise parent recently talk about her son’s involvement with a sports team. Her son told her she wasn’t invited on the field. That was his space. She agreed.

This is great advice for sideline parents…especially as parents to boys.

I know that I need to see the soccer pitch as their territory, not mine. If we want to raise independent, well-rounded boys, then we need to stay off the field. This includes keeping our angry yelling off the sidelines as well.

A growing boy needs a time and place to figure out how to become a man. For sure, parents have a big role in their growing up – especially in the teen years. But we can absolutely let them have their space…especially on a field with other boys who are becoming men.

Parents have been given this incredible and terrifying job of teaching their children to eventually live without needing them.

This can be played out in how we support them in their sports. I can easily offer a consolation after the game and positive encouragement from the sidelines. I can be present at all their games.

But when he’s on the field, that’s his place.

So even after my faux-paux this weekend at my son’s game, I have some hard-learned advice for all the sideline parents out there filling our weekends with long drives to games, mud-and-grass-stained laundry, sitting in rain or heat:  Step away from the field.

Our boys are becoming men on the turf, fields, pitch, and diamond.

Let them.

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