Last weekend I enjoyed my second Major League Soccer game. It was me, my daughters, and one of my very best friends. The weather was perfect, our seats were amazing, and the game was exciting. The game was full of energy and it seemed like the energy just got more and more intense. By the middle of the game I was 100% immersed into the sights and sounds of the game.
I was on the edge of my seat watching every minute and when our team started to make their move and score a goal, the entire stadium stood up in anticipation and, and, and well in soccer there usually isn’t a goal. This missed goal is usually followed by the sigh of the crowd, sometimes followed by cruel and profane comments, and mostly followed by comments about what the armchair quarterback “would” have done.
During the game the audience cursed the referee when he made a questionable call, they chanted nasty comments and taunted the opposing team when they missed a goal, and they even screamed cringe-worthy judgmental comments to our own team when they made a mistake. The crowd was toxic and intimidating and yet after the game, everyone walked away, got in their car, drove home, and probably acted as if this behavior was 100% acceptable and normal.
And in professional sporting events such as basketball, football, hockey, baseball, and soccer it seems like this type of crowd behavior is 100% acceptable and normal. We become beasts in the protection and anonymity of the crowd atmosphere. We feel safe in the presence of 30,000 other screaming people.
But what happens when we try to bring this type of behavior into our children’s amateur sports? Parents look like crazed pushy insane people. But in professional sports the same parent acting the same way is just an enthusiastic fan.
So why is it acceptable in one game and completely unacceptable in another?
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s terrible in both situations, but why the double standard? Why is it fun to join the chant “Ref, you suck.” at a professional hockey game, but at your child’s hockey game you would be shunned and asked to leave?
I know, I know we can’t kick out 29,000 fans and we can’t ask the fans to please be considerate towards the feelings of the other teams, coaches, and referees and show good sportsmanship. We would be laughed at and maybe even thrown out and spit on for asking, but what message are we sending to our children when we clearly have two different sets of rules and standards?
As a mental coach I am perplexed. The friend that I went to our game with ran around calling the referee all sorts of profanities, she jumped out of her seat screaming how blind and stupid the other team was for missing a hot, she also said very inappropriate things about our team when they missed shots. BUT she is also the first person to be offended at amateur competitions. She is furious when other teams pray that someone falls, parents scold their child for missing a play, or when parents talk bad about other teams.
How come she can hold strong beliefs about amateur sports, but not hold herself up to the same standard during professional sports? I get it, we have an emotional and personal connection when we go watch our children compete. We are not supposed to judge them and act like fools in the stands. We are supposed to love our athletes and their teammates unconditionally and support them when they make mistakes. We are sensitive to their feelings and want to help them grow into self confident adults with a strong self esteem.
We don’t have an emotional and personal connection to these professional players, but even professional athletes are someone’s children. They have feelings, and they don’t want to be so brutally judged when they make mistakes. Where is the love and compassion for all of these athletes?
Plus what message do we send our children when we scream, belittle, and condemn the performance of these professional players? Do our own children think that is the way we truly think about them when they perform? Do we secretly judge them, think they are idiots for missing shots, or become infuriated when they make mistakes? Do we feel the same way about them, but just don’t say it out loud?
This mixed message can’t be good. And so I have decided that the next MLS game I go to with my children I will only scream positive and empowering comments. I might even go far as making inspiring posters that say, “Good Try” and when a player tries for a goal and misses, I will hold it up high and scream “It’s okay, I love you.”. I will also make a sign for our team that says, “I Believe in You”, so when the crowd is screaming ruthless taunts, they will know that one fan is not judging them and still believes in them. And I will also make one for the referee that says “It’s okay…You have a hard job. That was a tough call. I’m a little mad, but I don’t hate you”.
Who knows, maybe I will inspire all 30,000 people to drop the negative, rude, and demeaning taunts and start a movement of positivity and building the athletes up with love and confidence. Or I might be thrown out and spit on. Really it could go either way.