What we expect to learn in team sport and what we actually learn

When we sign up for soccer we imagine our kids running around in the sun and learning ball skills and the skills of working as a team. Skills that will help them through their teenage years and later in life.
We turn up to the first game. It’s pouring with rain. Surprisingly the kids are happy to play in the rain. We are grateful they’re not scared of the cold and rain, after all soccer is a winter sport.

At training most of the team are paying attention, but one keeps doing the wrong thing. The coach has to spend extra time with this team member and the players have to assist them to fit in. This is the part of the team skills we hope children will learn 1. fitting in and 2. acceptance. Some team members are remarkably calm and accepting, for others how to include someone different is harder to learn.

We have a few games where we play against fun opposition teams. We win some we lose some. Along the way we learn things like: you must wear your uniform, turning up late lets the team down, sometimes you make a valuable contribution even though you were sleepy when you arrived, dribbling is a useful technique, and, sloppy defence leaves your goal vulnerable to attack.

One day we have a game where the opposition aren’t fun. The game is rough. The parents call loudly maybe aggressively. Some of our players are hurt and upset. The opposition scores after we’ve stopped play to help an injured team mate, and the referee allows the goal.
This is when the parents can learn from team sport. Maybe we haven’t been in a situation like this for a long time or ever. We have to see the big picture, weigh up the scene and respond appropriately.

How do we get something like this back on track? Try to resolve issues before they escalate. Ask the Ground Official if they can quieten the parents down. Speak to an official of the opposition team to let them know your concerns about rough play.
At half time check that the referee is ok. Let them know of your concerns about rough play and ask them if there is anything you can do to help them. Maybe they are a minor or new, still learning how to deal with multiple pressures. The game is a contract between two teams and the referee. When one party misbehaves it is difficult for all.

Try to finish the game. If you still feel aggrieved report you concerns to your Club after the game. Your Club can report poor sportsmanship to appropriate authorities.

After the game talk to the team about what they experienced, how they feel, what they have learned from the situation and what they think should happen next. Children have a lot of experience from the school yard. They often have a clear and fair view. Take note of their wishes to guide you for next steps and future games.

These are big lessons for all involved. Our community is a complex mix. In sport you may meet people who are different to you. If they are inside the law and inside the laws of the game, they are not wrong. This is our opportunity to learn valuable life skills in a time constrained environment.

When we register for soccer, we don’t anticipate so many learnings. But when we look back after 10 years of play we recognise the social skills we learned alongside the fitness and ball skills. That is a huge part of the value of team sport in our community. The best thing you can do as a soccer parent is be a great role model for your child.

Liza Schaeper
LSFC President 2014 – 2019

Note: If there a threat that requires police or for us to remove ourselves, do not leave yourself in danger and respond appropriately.
It is considered bad sportsmanship to abandon a game. However, ultimately it is your role to protect yourself and your child.