Saturday, April 12, 2008

Everyone's a critic

My little one was playing in a rugby tournament today. Luckily, despite having an inch of hailstones for the Ulster Magners League match last night, today was a splendiferous day (I apparently, have a bit of a tan about my face!) so I was able to go and watch without suffering the risk of a further chest infection or a bout of hypothermia.

I don't mind doing the touchline thing, apart from one factor: other parents. And unfortunately, today was no different.

My little one plays for the P3 team, that's 6-7 year olds. IRFU say you have to be 6 years old to play mini-rugby (though a few always creep in under the wire) so this is their first year of playing. IRFU also state that at that age they are to play tag rugby with no contact. All good sensible stuff.

The reality of the situation is that 6-7 years olds are kids who don't always remember to pass the ball behind them, don't understand the 'offside rule' and sometimes enthusiastically run in touch in their desire to get to the try line. I've even seen them run down the wrong end of the pitch in their efforts to get over a line. So, they're only wee, and it's only a game, and you want to encourage them and make sure they enjoy it.

As ever, there are two type of parents at these events; the winning parents and the losing parents. Let's start with the winning parents today. I had one standing beside me during the first game who really should have been on the pitch refereeing the game himself. Some of his mantras included
  1. touch, referee, touch
  2. referee, they're offside
  3. get in their (by this he meant the oppositions) face
  4. referee, are you watching the run of play?
  5. we got that tag 5 yards up the pitch ref

Now, I'm not one for listening to this kind of piffle at a 6-7 years olds tag rugby match. At an Ulster match, definitely - in fact I've been known to be quite vociferous myself. But there's a time and a place. And this was not the time or the place. So I gave him a look. Which, I have to say, he manfully ignored, but his wife caught it and started to say things like, 'it's only a game dear' and 'I think you're maybe taking this a nit too seriously'. You think, eh?

Then there's the losing parents, of which, today, I was one. All sweetness and light when the coaches are standing chatting with them, but as soon as the losing starts they are criticising 'selection procedures for teams' and 'coach involvement on the pitch', taking a pop at 'the way the team have been trained throughout the year' ... I could go on.

I have a husband who is a mini rugby coach. They are at the ground first every Saturday morning for 9am, and they leave last when all is tidied up. Or when all the kids are collected, which sometimes can be up to an hour after the session is over. They also have mid-week training and matches on occasions and frequently have organisational/planning meetings during the week, particularly in the run up to events like todays. This morning, the coaches were at the grounds from 7am to set up. They were there until 5pm this evening. And they are, of course, all volunteers. In fact, they have to pay membership to the club for the privilege of coaching other peoples kids, whereas the majority of parents just turn up and show no financial allegiance whatsoever. And yes, if coaches have kids, their kids still pay full wack mini rugby fees as well.

So, if you are a parent with issues, be a coach I say. Or get married to one. Then come and criticise with impunity.

1 comment:

Dana said...

My husband coached my daughter's soccer team for two years. You have the parent's down pat. I know all the hard work and time that goes in to it and most of the parents that we dealt with seemed to appreciate that.
Then there were the ones that seemed to be mistaking this 8 & 9 year old team for the pros. That this was their chance at the game and glory. Sigh...

Sometimes I had to bite my tongue not to yell at them...