My son played in an out-of-town soccer tournament this weekend. His team won their division. But as they made their way through the tournament, they encountered a team coached by a person who truly believes in winning at all cost.
This team had very talented players from a variety of countries. They had speed, they had footskills, and they had experience on the field. Many of their players literally towered over my son and his teammates. We knew it was going to be a very close match. After a very physical game, the outcome was a 1-0 loss for our team. But it was still early in the tournament, so the boys could still make it to the finals.
After that game, this coach of the other team told the head referee that we (parents) were making “racist” comments to his team members from the sidelines. Okay. I have played soccer all my life and I have not met a more mellow, unconfrontational group of soccer parents as our team has. If cheering occurs at all, it is encouraging and addressed to our own team. When this coach made this claim, the sideline referee who was in front of us parents for the entire game said, “I didn’t hear anything like that, but I did hear your players cussing at me.”
Fast forward to the final game for first place. Yep, you guessed it. Same team. We are taking our seats when a parent from the other team walks over and says that she has heard that our team is racist and she knows exactly the comments we have made. She tells us that we should teach our children how bad racism is. We looked like a row of guppies. Our mouths were just dropped open because the claim was just so ridiculous. None of us had even remotely said anything like that! This team was pulling the race card and it was a “he said, she said” type of situation. How could we “prove” we hadn’t said anything of the sort? They knew this and their coach knew this, so they kept the lie alive.
Simultaneously, another couple of teams of this coach’s arrive and start saying all sorts of outlandish things to us and about us. We were literally surrounded by a crowd of negativity. In the first game, my husband had heard their players yelling at each other very nastily in the back field, accusing each other of whose fault it was that our team had scored. I heard a parent from the other team say that he was only there watching our game because the coach had said it was mandatory that his son’s team be there. His son was not playing in that game, but they were not allowed to leave. I could not believe what lengths this coach was willing to go to win this game. It was an unbelievable experience in many ways.
In the end, our boys won the game in overtime. They played clean, but aggressive soccer. They passed around the other team even if our team got punched in the stomach on the sly. Our team kept their heads in the game.
However, this mom (me) who tries to live a virtuous life, got taken down. After two hours of teenagers saying rude and disrespectful taunts to myself, the other parents and the players, I lost it. I let their toxic attitude and nasty comments get under my skin. I am embarrassed to admit that I just couldn’t help myself. When we scored the winning goal, I stood up and cheered for our team really, really loudly. I guess I am human after all.