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“Jesus! Who’s in the goal?” the woman standing to my right on the side of the soccer field shouted.

“What are you doing out there? Get the ball!”

I wanted to tell this lady to shut up. For one, she was not supposed to be standing on the coaches’ side of the field. Secondly, the goalie, the one who just let another goal slip past her, was my daughter.

But I didn’t say a word. I was busy coaching my daughter’s soccer team. I was busy offering encouraging words to my players, one of whom was the daughter of the big-mouthed woman talking smack about my daughter.

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I’d like to say this mom was an exception to the norm, but my brief stint as a youth soccer coach has opened my eyes to the fact that, well, parents can be whack jobs. And they can ruin everyone’s fun. They can also turn their kids off of sports for life.

According to an opinion piece on an Australian news site, parents might be the reason so many children quit sports when they reach their teens.

The author, Kathleen Noonan, cites a statistic from the U.S.:

“Each year 20 million children register for baseball, soccer, football, hockey and other competitive sports; about 70 per cent of those will quit by age 13.”

Keep reading to see what the author suggests.

She then suggests that parents have more to do with this dropout rate than they care to admit. Noonan doesn’t mince words when trying to explain the phenomenon that is parents being over-invested in a youth sports game.

Our egos get in the way of seeing youth sports for what they are: Play. I can get egotistical watching my kids play games. But, oddly, I’m not a natural sideline yeller.

I am, however, a talk too mucher on the way home from the game. And, according to Noonan, this is just as bad.

“The car ride home is when the kid just wants to quietly let the game sink in – whether a win or a loss.They know if they’ve played well or badly. You don’t need to tell them. The car’s a pretty intense closed environment. They can sense your every thought, disappointment, anger, even a bit too much pride. It’s all there, crowding in. Every sigh, every shrug is amplified.”

Noonan’s ultimate suggestion is for parents to shut up. Like Rachel Macy Stafford of the Hands Free Mama blog said, the words “I love to watch you play” are all a child really needs, or wants, to hear from her parent.

Our local rec department has a sportsmanship motto that says it all for me:
“Please let the players play, the coaches coach, the officials officiate, and keep the cheering positive. Lead by example.”

I try to imagine what childhood would have been like if all the neighborhood parents had gathered round our red rover, British bulldog, freeze tag, and baseball games, giving us tips and spouting critique from the sidelines.

Yuck. We would have all gone inside to watch TV instead.

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