Spirits were a little low at my son's soccer game last week.
The other team was clobbering them and somehow we'd just scored a goal on ourselves (the ball simply hit one of them and bounced into the net).
But that wasn't the part that got me down. The father of one of the stronger players would not stop riding his son the whole time. (Bear in mind these kids are seven and eight.) This dad's message to his son was basically to play more than one position on the field. "Your team needs you," he kept saying. "Try some longer kicks." The instructions did not stop. The look on this child's face revealed his dad really was ruining his fun.
When Serious Dad made some general comment to the other parents on the sidelines about our kids needing to get it together, I had my opening for a chirpy response about it not being Major League Soccer.
What ensued was a stupid conversation with me defending having fun and him insisting you could still have fun while being disciplined. I'm pretty sure my son had a better time at the game than his.
This was just my first experience with those sideline shouters we hear so much about, and I know that many of you have similar - and much worse - stories to tell.
I choose to believe that most parents involved in amateur sport bring a good attitude to the soccer pitch or hockey arena, and I'm taking heart in a BMO Financial Group study conducted by Leger Marketing.
It found that competitiveness was one of the lowest ranked reasons that parents choose to register their children in sports, while 99 per cent of respondents said that fun was important. Not surprisingly, 97 per cent said that the health benefits were among their motivations. The chance to develop life skills was selected by 96 per cent and the opportunity to develop social skills by 94 per cent.
Some other interesting findings include:
* Four out of five parents surveyed felt that team sports were important.
* Soccer has the highest level of participation in Canada, with 33 per cent saying they would enroll their kids versus 16 per cent for hockey.
* Those living in rural areas were more likely than those in the suburbs to view being outside as an important factor when chosing sports for their children.
We're off to soccer again tonight and I'm planning to give Serious Dad a wide berth. Let's just all remember why we enroll our kids in sports. It's to show them a good time. It's to instill a love of being active. It's to help them make friends and learn to collaborate with others. It's to give them the resilience they can only gain from losing a game and finding that the world doesn't end. It's for the understanding that "you can't win them all" and the sweet feeling of success when they do.
Here's to a great summer on and beside the field!