Bad sportsmanship is never the best game plan

Am I looking for a soccer scholarship for my daughter? NO! I want her to learn sportsmanship from being part of a team. I think her coaches are teaching her just that.

Today C saw firsthand an example of BAD sportsmanship. And bad referee skills. Poor sportsmanship is like porn: you know it when you see it!

Today C's team played Wanaque Thunder, the only undefended team in our flight. The game ended in a tie, thanks in part to C's great goal! But the goal isn't what I'll remember about the game in a few years. I'll remember these snotty 11 and 12 year old girls we played. KS was kicked in the calf so badly you could see the marks from the other team's cleat for at least an hour after the game. Wanaque huddled together on the field and laughed at KS while waiting for her to be carried off the field. Our girls were on a knee, as is the general practice, the other girls flatly refused even when our SAGE parent yelled, "HEY GIRLS, in Bridgewater when someone gets hurt we get on a knee!"

In response to this incident, CG asked "What is wrong with you?" of the laughing teammate who actually hurt KS so badly you could see the marks from her cleat on KS' calf. For that comment CG got a yellow card! Even when the ref later admitted two errors he didn't make any changes or even address Wanaque's poor behavior. First: Wanaque's second goal came from a play in which they should have been fouled.Second: he had to admit at the end of the game that KS was more seriously injured than he originally believed and he had fouled KS, even though KS had been the injured party.  The opposing team got a free kick just outside the box after KS' injury, skillfully deflected by our EL.

If you saw yesterday's USA-England game you caught that even the notorious English weren't cocky when their player ran into our keeper with a full force cleat to the chest. English fans are known worldwide for their poor manners. But not this time!

I am not trying to sound like sour grapes! I know it can be hard to ref - people simply see things differently! In fact I should be happy that we tied with a previously undefeated team. If the girls had been nicer, I would have felt the same way about this game that I felt about the US-UK game yesterday - 'as the underdog, a tie is fine with me!' Our girls worked well together and gave it their best despite the nastiness, so it would have been even sweeter with a win to wipe the smirks off their faces. The nastier these girls got and the harder it rained, the more it unified our team. Our girls stepped it up a notch and by the end of the game, the girls were on a fire that even the pouring rain couldn't put out.

I'm not naive: I know that 12 year old girls are often rotten to one another. They are even mean to their closest friends - but on the field, in front of their families, I expect better behavior. Laughing at another kid's injury makes me ill!  It's not the first time we've seen bad sportsmanship. Earlier in the season I was shocked when one of the teams' girls spit on their hands before shaking at the end of the game.  Can we say YUCK?

I just wonder what the other teams in our league think about Wanaque's poor manners, constant pushing and negative sportsmanship? Is it really a win if you are bullies? These are 11 and 12 year old girls playing travel soccer, but today they seemed like hooligans! It made it more ironic that we got yellow cards  and someone rooting for our girls was thrown off the field for calling the ref an asshole. (Not that I don't agree, but KS's uncle shouldn't have said it).

I have always hated it when the bad kids don't get caught, and when the good kid gets caught after she retaliates. Happens all the time in life. That doesn't mean I liked watching it today.

***Picture from Fall 2009 (not the ref mentioned above).

Update from feedback: I have been informed that some other teams (including re: girls of the same age in the BSA program) don't take a knee as apparently it's OK to use this time for strategic planning. While I find it appropriate for kids to be respectful when someone is hurt, no matter whether it is a teammate or an opponent, apparently I'm the last of a dying breed. But I've also heard that certain high school teams are also very appropriate in such situations. It is possible to be competitive AND nice. 

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