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Keeping Up With the Soccer Joneses

Family family tiesTies was one of my favorite sitcoms from the 1980’s.  It wasn’t the funniest show in the world but I related with it.  Parents who cared but were a little weird and eccentric.  The kids had some problems but nothing overly earth-shattering.  Despite any issues that arose, there was a general sense that the family cared for one another and wanted the best for each other.  The morals to the episodes were pretty straight forward and dealt with things that I was about to go through as a kid.  Although there were major differences between myself and the character, I always identified with Alex P.  Keaton.

His character was focused intently on money, success and economics.  Those topics never really hit my radar.  However intertwined within his “young republican” ideals was a character that had struggles and found a balance for his aspirations and human relations.  His desire for success got pushed to the side at times when more pressing matters were at hand.  Now I recognize that the show is fake and the character does not really exist but it paints a picture.  Alex P. Keaton was a “keep up with Joneses” kind of guy.  Success was written into his character but so was a human element.  I’ve not asked Michael J. Fox for an interpretation on the following but I feel confident in my assertion.

Most of us need to focus more on the soccer Keatons and let the soccer Joneses go!  Believe me!  I want the USMNT to win a World Cup.  It’s a dream that I would love to see come to fruition.  BUT my desire for that success cannot override my desire for a fruitful sports culture for a majority of our young players.  Academies SHOULD exist.  Trainers SHOULD be training young soccer players.  However the idea that all players and parents should be aspiring to that level is lunacy.  The soccer culture over the past few years has tilted heavily toward the professionalism of the youth game.  As I said above, these things are important for the improvement the sport at a certain level.  The pervasiveness of the shift is the concern.  There seems to be a cultural ratchet that should exist for some but not others.  The top level players need that cultural ratchet to improve the national team player pool.  The general youth player does not.

  • They need their parents to cheer for them embarrassingly no matter how mediocre they are.
  • They need to have economic burden of youth sports taken off of their parents, thus inflated expectations taken off of them.
  • They need their instruction in the sport to come from a caring adult who is invested in them as a person rather than an outsourced “expert”.
  • They need to be a kid first.

Perhaps this is nothing more than a bit of nostalgia for a simpler soccer time.  Or maybe we should truly be worried.  Worried that a sport whose name in this country is even derived from its community roots but seems to be more focused on individualism and exceptionalism.  If our hearts and minds are truly for sale, we should look to get more than a few years with the label of “Elite”.  Those years are not coming back.  When they are gone, will you revel in how close you were to the top level?  Or how close you are with the people who matter to you in your family/community?  Perhaps you can have the former without sacrificing the latter but is that a gamble that so many should be making?

What would we do (baby) without us?

Pete

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Instead…

CoachingI’d like to blame Google because it would be so extremely easy to do.  However blame doesn’t really solve anything and this was a problem long before Google even existed.

When searching for something in the modern world though, Google is “the” place to go.  After the search is done, the results come in and there are usually thousands or even millions of them.  The problem is that most of us only look at the top result (after bypassing the ads made to look like results).  Finding a satisfactory result is “quick and easy”.  Isn’t that the way that we want all things to be?  Not hardly.  I don’t want my surgeon’s training to be quick and easy.  Every situation is different and we should want different parameters for what we’re looking for from each.  Unfortunately “quick and easy” seems to have become an almost societal norm.  In my usual arena of soccer, the desire for a quick and easy result is desired by many but rarely does that garner best results.

Let’s take some of the usual situations from the soccer world and break them loose from the quick and easy solution.  Possibly if we dig a little deeper, we’ll find that a slower and more difficult solution will have result that we should really want.

Game Time!  Your child is not getting the amount of playing time that you believe that they deserve.  If you decide to go the quick and easy route, you’ve got some options open.  Move them to another team.  Spend an hour crafting the perfectly worded email to the coach that will both highlight your child’s strengths and not question the coach’s past decisions.  Hire a trainer to sharpen your child’s skills to the point where they will not be denied.  These are all employed with regularity.  So much so that they are viewed as common practice.

Perhaps the uncommon practice would actually have a better result.  Use the hours that you would have used to email, search for a new team or working a second job to pay the trainer and do something different.  Go with your child to an open space and kick the ball with them.  You don’t need to do it well.  You don’t even need to do it right.  Actually it is probably better if you don’t know what you’re doing!  It will give your child the opportunity to be an “expert” on something that you aren’t.  Regardless of whether this activity results in any additional playing time on the weekend doesn’t matter.  The game that you are playing when you are a parent, isn’t the quick and easy variety.  It is the long and fulfilling type.  Recognizing the game that you actually want to win rather than the game that is being noticed by most.

Red card!  Every referee that you encounter is horrible.  The quick and easy path has several options attached to it.  Berate the referee at every perceived wrong call.  If there is an evaluation process available to you, employ it with fervor.  Or when you are really upset, confront them personally.  These are also common place and therefore accepted.

The uncommon practice is going to be far more difficult.  Saving your breath from the derisive comments and use it to power a whistle.  Take the courses and raise the level of refereeing because obviously with your extensive sideline knowledge, you’d be very good at that job.  This type of action could save the game because unless a change like this happens, who will be the referees of the future?  The constant abuse that referees receive will continue to result in an exodus from the profession.  In the end this is not the only area where people are willing to complain from the sidelines but less likely to step into the fray.  Our world has an almost infinite supply of spectators.  People willing to act are in much shorter supply.

As you live your daily life, you’re going to be confronted with all kinds of decisions.  Sometimes the quick and easy or common paths are just fine.  It may be time to decide if “just fine” is good enough or looking for better results is in our best interest.  There are many levels beyond just fine that we can reach.  The key is that we must be willing to search.  They are rarely going to be the decisions that everyone else is making.   You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.  You can do something else INSTEAD!

Make it a better day!

Pete