Parental misconduct during kids’ hockey games is so frequent it has become cliche. It is always inappropriate to shout obscenities at the opposing team or the referee or your own kid. A swift kick out of the rink is both necessary and de rigueur.
It’s not so clear cut, though, when it comes to those parents who don’t disrupt the game with crudity or nastiness but instead, with excessive encouragement and attentiveness.
One such man was at my daughter’s soccer game this afternoon.
At first, I thought he was an excited father who didn’t get to see many of his daughter’s soccer games. His voice was pleasant and upbeat as he shouted out directions to one player (or maybe two) by name, play by play. He stood very close to the sideline and was leaning in so that much of the time, his head was over the line. It was mildly annoying but I didn’t let it get to me. I felt for the guy; he was overjoyed that he got to be a part of his kid’s game.
But as time went on, it became clear that he wasn’t just shouting directions to his own child. He was shouting to all of the players on his child’s team. If he had a child on the team at all. I was beginning to think that he was a coach who was standing on the wrong side of the field. He had a sheet of paper in his hand, which he referred to occasionally as he offered up his instructions. When things weren’t going well for his team, which was quite frequent during this game, his voice shifted to a frustrated inflection but quickly recovered its “go get ’em” tone.
At this point, this man’s behavior was disruptive to my enjoyment of the game. It was hard to focus with his constant, persistent commentary.
“Is he a coach or a parent?” the woman next to me asked.
Several spectators sitting or standing near us either answered or leaned in to hear the answer. After a little back and forth, we decided he was a parent. The sheet of paper in his hand was a team roster, downloaded from the school’s webpage. That’s why he knew every single player’s name.
He moved from one end of the field to the other at the start of the second half. Clearly, he needed to be close to the players so they would be able to hear him and follow his instructions. He spent the entire second half of the game guiding his team’s players with his play by play advice. We spent the entire second half trying to ignore his loud, constant chatter.
I know. Get over it. Some parents are more vocal than others. Sometimes, I’m known to shout out words of encouragement or disappointment during one of my children’s sports events. But there is a line that I don’t cross. Or if I do cross it, it is a mistake and I realize that and reel myself in. The majority of parents I’ve seen at the hundreds of games I’ve attended recognize the existence of that line and under most circumstances, do not cross it either.
In the past, when a parent has acted as this man did, either an official or a coach or a spouse or one of the players (usually his child) advised him (or her) to stop shouting orders onto the field. It’s confusing for the players and distracting for the rest of us. But today, nobody stopped him.
As much as it bothered me, I wasn’t going to be the one to do it. He wasn’t committing a criminal offense. He wasn’t being verbally or physically abusive. He was simply breaking the unwritten code of how to be a spectator at one of your children’s sports games.
Would you have said something to him if you had been there? Would you have been able to ignore him? If you answered no to both those questions, would you have done something different to stop him? Or do you think we need to learn to just accept that some people behave in ways that we do not like and it is none of our business to interfere?
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