With the World Cup only a week away, the passion of nations is about to be put on display for the world to see. The line between ecstasy and exasperation will be measured in moments and inches rather than hours and yards. Preparations for this spectacle have been going on for years because for most of us, it is just that big of a deal. Soccer truly is its own religion. The problem, however, is the same as it is with most religions. When people care that much about something, they tend to leave their ability to reason at the door. Passion trumps perspective and people lose sight of what is TRULY important. This is extremely evident in soccer’s hate triangle*.
This past weekend at my son’s game, it became evident that there are a lot of negative feelings swirling around the soccer fields these days. There is obviously plenty of excitement and passion to go around but the negative feelings are also ubiquitous. Most of the time these feelings are directed at a particular group of people involved. Every game has the potential to become a powder keg as tempers (both expressed and unexpressed) flare up. Three groups represent the biggest sources of animosity and project it outward toward one or both of the others. Coaches, Parents and Referees are the adults surrounding a game. While stuck in the middle are the young people that the game is supposed to be for. Obviously not every parent, coach or referee has these negative feelings toward the other groups but it is so ever-present that most kids are affected.
So in the name of the children that we are supposed to be helping navigate this game and life, here are some suggestions on how to break the hate triangle:
Walk a mile – It’s so extremely easy be an expert on something that you’ve never done. Perspective is a game changer. So if you’re a parent or coach who regularly finds fault with referees, sign up for a course or volunteer to “referee” a scrimmage game within your club. These simple actions can give you the perspective of the other party. Empathy is a key component to breaking down the walls between opposed people. One of the best ways to cultivate empathy is through a different experience.
Communicate only when emotion is low – Do your best not to say (or scream) what you’re thinking in that heated moment. Pause and wait for a time when you and the other party are calm to discuss situations.
Remember people – More than likely you’re not dealing with the reincarnation of Genghis Khan. This person is not a demon. They are another human that has a family, friends and a job. It’s easier to judge someone else as bad based on one moment of their life. While I’m sure that you’ve handled every situation of your life perfectly, it might not be fair or helpful to hold everyone to a standard of perfection.
Be a person you’d like to meet – If the roles were reversed, would you want to deal with you? Putting the best version of yourself forward gives an example for the other side to live up to. At bare minimum in these tumultuous times, people might not show you their best side. You should never lower yourself to become a person that you don’t like.
These are not the only strategies but they’re a start. In the end we need to remember every single weekend that the World Cup is most likely not at stake in the game that we’re involved with. Something more important is. The future of how our young people relate to one another is being formed at every moment. How many more generations do we want to keep in soccer’s hate* triangle?
Break the cycle!
*(I use the word hate on purpose. It is more to describe the depth of feeling rather than pervasiveness of that feeling.)