Saturday, September 6, 2008

Over-the-top

I'm a hockey mom. Since I left the horses that used to rule my days in my *distant* past, there's not much that can get me out of bed any earlier than I have to on any given morning.*

But I will be getting out of bed EARLY on a regular basis soon to go watch my sons careen around the ice with their friends - heads filled with NHL dreams while I sit, with the other parents, huddled over my coffee trying to pretend I'm not freezing my a** off in the stands. I know hockey parents can have a reputation for being a little too serious about the sport, but my experience has been that (at least at this young age still) it's all about having fun and making sure the kids have a great time and feel good about themselves. Fair play and teamwork all the way. I love hockey and I love having my kids in hockey. My boys have tried soccer and baseball too... all youth sport seems to be similar - we all just want our kids to have fun, be safe and play fair.

Or so I thought.

This year is the first time that one of my children has chosen to play football. My boy desperately wanted to play because several of his friends did. So we signed him up - and he's been loving it (mostly). It's been a wake-up call for me though. Football people are a little different that the ones I've met in other sports. A little more hardcore, I have to say. My son is 9. He's playing on a 9-10 team. They practice twice a week. Long and HARD. They play on the weekends.

Players have to be at the games a full hour before game time. If they are late, there are consequences... like push-ups or laps. Which is kinda shitty if you ask me... I mean, it's not like a 9 or 10 year old actually has any control over what time his parents get him to a game on the other side of the city... so who are the coaches really punishing? (are these coaches or mafia? Like "get to games on time PARENTS, or I'll hurt your kid"). And no, just in case you're thinking I'm grumbling from personal experience, my son hasn't suffered this fate.... yet.

If one child forgets their water bottle, the whole team is punished - which, I understand, is another important control tactic: Peer pressure... aka turning the rest of the players on the delinquent one. (this one, I'm afraid, we have to cop to). Practices are 2 1/2 hours long Tuesday & Thursdays. But if the game doesn't go well, or the coach isn't happy about how hard the kids have tried during one practice, he'll toss in one on Wednesday as well. Although this one may be a HARDER practice. Because it is punishment after all....

And the parents all sit silently by. Other than yelling about a bad call or pointing out how the other team is cheating by playing same players on offence & defence or other ways they're taking advantage. Yelling at the refs I get - everyone in every sport complains about the officiating... that's not unique to football... but the football parents take this CHILD's game pretty seriously. It all seems just a little over the top to me.... and as I glance down the sidelines at the other parents I'm left wondering if I'm the only one who thinks so?? I mean they're 9 for crying out loud - this isn't the pros!

Actually, I know I'm NOT the only one... one parent must've echoed something similar to what I'm saying (maybe it was my husband?) to the coach, because his response was "if they can't take it seriously they'll never make the pros". Um yeah Einstein, and if you sour them on the game at 9 so that they quit and never play again they'll never make the pros either! Jeez.... some people's kids.

My son actually asked me if I'd be mad at him if he quit "a" sport. We had a little talk and, even though he does have fun at football (mostly), the gruelling parts of it are getting to him. And while I'm encouraging him to stick it out (I told him he can quit after this season if he never wants to play again), I feel like I have to put my foot down with these football zealots. I emailed the coach and told them that my boy was starting back to Cub scouts (still two weeks off - but what's a little white lie to protect my firstborn) and would no longer be available for additional Wednesday practices. I told them that we had planned and scheduled for the Tuesdays & Thursdays but didn't realize that Wednesdays needed to be committed as well. And I'm a fast learner... having already taken stock of how things work in football, I felt compelled to add: "I hope this won't cause him any difficultly on the team or with the coaches." Cheeky, maybe, but I'm a little annoyed with the bunch of them.

Hockey registration was Wednesday. My boys will be back on the ice shortly. I can't wait to get back to a "normal" sport environment... where it's all about the smiles on the kids' faces - not the number on the scoreboard.

*(my caveat is that I do, unfortunately, get up early more often than I'd like lately - but we don't need to talk about toddlers and wet beds here)

2 comments:

Naomi said...

Yep.

Just wait. It gets better in 8th grade.

There is a definite "edge" to keeping up with football ... I feel bad for all of the kids that put up with all of that, only to keep the bench warm all season.

I have a post sitting in "draft" about that very thing!

Mbdiamond said...

Well, in fairness, at least we don't have any bench warming going on - all the kids get to play every game at least...