EACH FOOL IS DIFFERENT – PARENTS ON THE SIDELINES
At a soccer game one finds not only different types of players, but also, especially in youth soccer, different characters and personalities among the “parents on the sidelines”. Susanne Amar, founder of the blog, “Ins Netz gegangen” [“Gone Into the Net”], submits to you her take on things and what she learned about soccer parents in more than a decade on the sidelines.
Over the course of recent years I have gotten to know different soccer authorities: the traditional club, the soccer school, the youth training center.
Here I get to know players and parents and each team has its own character. Yet one thing is common to all of them: It is a colorfully mixed, multicultural bunch. Integration in soccer has long been day-to-day routine.
Our children’s soccer binds us parents together. Yet as different as we are, that’s how different our perspectives and attitudes to ball sports are as well.
As is often true in social communities, you can “pigeonhole” us wonderfully…
The type of father who is present for every training session and game, and who has an opinion about every player in the team, even if it’s not always positive. He makes no secret of it; he rates his son as an enormous talent.
Mother only makes an appearance when the head of the family can’t show up, is sooner quiet and remains on the sidelines.
The son is a nice, quiet boy who is very ambitious, and in whose nature and body language the pressure to which he is already subjected can often be seen.
The parents hope that their son will go “far” in soccer and play in a league which will guarantee them care in their old age. He should give it everything he’s got; they demand achievement at the highest level.
And so their offspring must clench his teeth when his knee hurts or when, according to the father’s opinion, the grace period after an injury lasts too long and he should kindly take his place again.
The statistics monitor
Those who take a deep interest in the sport of their child, who know all the other parents and their respective sons, and know who, when, and for how long played in which club. They keep a close eye on the spreadsheet, know wins and losses not only for their own team, but also for the opponent.
For me, the walking statisticians, who always have their smartphone to hand, so that during the game they don’t lose sight of the tweets from the other teams in the league, and can inform the immediate environment of goals and counter goals.
They analyze, after the final whistle, which goal difference will lead to which place and whether the championship is already lost or still within reach.
I find that extremely entertaining, but can’t imagine for a single second caring about such things.
At the same time, however, the statisticians are very useful and ready to help, if I ever want to know something. That I will receive an answer to my every question is as sure as eggs is eggs.
These are the ones who only have the welfare of their own son in mind and stand by the trainer at the end of every practice.
In my experience, this is not gender-specific. I have experienced it with some mothers just as much as with one or another father, in the extreme case even with both parents.
Particularly for young coaches who are not yet so conversant with the parental work, that leads quickly to being overwhelmed.
Two to three people are pursuing them after the end of practice. Mother A informs that her son cannot come to practice tomorrow because of a doctor’s appointment. Okay, okey-dokey. I understand that the coach has to know that.
Father B, who watched the practice for the last ten minutes, explains that his son could not practice so well today because he still has a problem with the injury to his shinbone that he got in the last game. Here is where it gets borderline for me. Why does he have to emphasize that especially?
In my experience, coaches already have on their radar the injuries which players get in practice or in a game. They themselves are, in all likelihood, aware of the limitation. What then is the actual message of this information? Treat my son with care? Get tougher with him? Let him play over the weekend, too, if he still has pain?
Unbelievable, but also not at all rare, are Parents C, who actually want to get involved in the squad planning and ask why their son isn’t playing or isn’t playing in the position which they deem to be correct.
The Helicopter parents
Those who accompany their son at every turn, watch every practice like a hawk even when he’s in the B-Youth category, and simply can’t let go. They also have tendencies of the statisticians, as the hobby of their child is actually their hobby too, and they expend the same amount of time as their son, since they’re always there.
I often wonder what the rest of the lives of these children looks like, whether they are also so overprotected there as well? What is the motivation for these parents? Are they simply afraid that something could happen to their child? Or do they believe that he can accomplish nothing alone? What will these parents do if their son stops playing the sport or gives them the slip by becoming independent?
Second Chance parents
An additional species are the fathers (in rare cases the mothers, too), who once kicked the ball themselves or were active in other sports disciplines, but for various reasons did not make it to the top. Now they support their son or their daughter and hope through him/her to achieve late fame.
Some, whom I know are closely bound to the sport of their son, do not exhibit any obvious pressure to perform, but instead are subtle. In continuous conversation after practice and game there are covert instructions on the way sonny boy can do it better.
Then it’s not about “you must…” or “you may not…,” but rather it’s “you should…,” “why not try….,” “why not consider….”
Then when he doesn’t want to consider, because he doesn’t want to, it “eats away” at the father and he is disappointed. If only he had had someone like him at his side back then, he would have landed at the very top…
The Consultant parents
An additional phenotype which one encountered in the past only occasionally, but is more common today, are parents who since the D-Youth category, at the latest, have a consultant for their son. He pops up now and again at a game, gives advice, handles contracts, and helps when changing clubs.
The "Parent" Coaches
A species threatened with extinction are the prehistoric rocks: parents, who still always call out instructions from the sidelines, and not only to their son, but also to the teammates.
What’s more, they referee better than any referee. They comment on every decision of the impartial one, rant and berate him, not always very fairly, when they deem the decision to be unjust.
They attempt to draw their nearest neighbors into their wake, and in the USA they would certainly have a lifelong stadium ban for the games of their son.
Hope is last to die
I get to know parents whose son has played for years in the same club, is quasi part of the inventory, and parents like players hope that a “Mr. Big” will soon grab hold and all the money, all the efforts and torments will finally pay off.
The Easy-Going parents
However I also meet fathers and mothers, who calmly follow their son’s hobby and provide support and simply let the chips fall where they may. There are not many of them and they can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Mostly these are parents who themselves never really encountered soccer, but who nonetheless find it good that their children are involved in sports.
These are my favorite conversational partners because with them, nice topics arise which have little to do with our children’s sports. With them I talk about things that make up our “real” life apart from that: work, the nieces and nephews, planning for the weekend, vacation reading, the next short trip, our sports activities, and…
Because even though we’re parents of a soccer player, we are not reduced to just that.
"Then I also meet parents who cannot be neatly classified into a category"
The father who offers his son every support and who distinguishes himself at the final whistle of the game by running around the field alone. That is his way to work through the tension.
Or the father of a player who operates as administrator in the team. He sets up a game schedule on the Internet which is accessible to all the parents and which he meticulously takes care of, just like the WhatsApp-Group on which he keeps us all up to date during the game.
I am unbelievably thankful to him precisely for the latter, as I don’t have to inform my husband in his absence about the course of the game. I can’t answer everything he wants to know anyway.
And last but not least – the mothers who for our diverse afternoon barbecues make the best kefta, salads, and desserts that I have ever eaten.
What do your “pigeonholes” look like?