Drop Johnny Off Here
by Frank Wycoff

Somewhere along the line the game I dearly love has turned too time consuming and far too complicated for parents to become involved in with their children. The game of soccer is very simple, as simple as the Monopoly board game. Yet getting parents to sign up to coach their own child is one of the most consistently frustrating problems we have in our organization. For the young parents willing to do anything to help their child, so long as someone else will do it or they can pay for it, spending any additional time, beyond the weekend, teaching them a game is not one of them.

"I don't know anything about soccer," they say, to which I reply, "neither does your child", which, to no avail, falls on deaf ears. "How about we pay you?" (I think I'm missing an opportunity here). "No, you can't do that, this is a volunteer organization and we are talking about a game". A very simple game, popular the world over, because anyone can play. The organization I'm involved with offers clinics in how to teach children the game; I'm one of the teachers. Classes include self-esteem, motivation, communication, sportsmanship, along with the fundamental techniques of soccer. The emphasis is on the relationships one has with children as a role model, teaching a fun game, without belittling them, yelling or talking down to them because of one's height.

Motivation, self-esteem, communication, sportsmanship, all good stuff for a child to learn from a caring adult and visa versa. That is if you can get them passed the professional sports they watch on TV. These young parents can't seem to distinguish the difference between the two when they are asked to participate. Losing is bad, must win or my child is no good, send them to private lessons or be in last place, in the cellar.

Who raised these people? Highly motivated, upwardly moving, laptop-toting, driving a BMW and perfectly happy to turn over the education of their child to someone else. Blindly assuming that this third person knows what he or she is doing...

It seems that a good number of these parents are going through the motions when it comes to life: Get a good job, earn a lot of money, get married, have kids and send them off here to day care, and there to school, ballet lessons, soccer practice, karate, summer camps and on and on and have no involvement at all because that's the way my parents did it and look where I am today, look at all the stuff I have.

Let me get off this tirade I'm on and say that not all the parents that sign their kids up for soccer refuse to get involved, but out of the 900 kids signed up, maybe 150 parents are involved in the weekly activities during the season. Noticeable, no?

Most of the excuses I get, along with the blank stares, deal with time, lack of knowledge, or that they had assumed they would just drop their child off like every other activity their child is involved in and pick them up in an hour or two. I seem to remember that raising a child was more than food, clothing, shelter and when we have to be seen together; like church or parent/teacher meetings.

Or was that on a TV show?

Published February 21, 1997
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