If you screamed yourself hoarse watching the A-league grand final, try standing by the sidelines watching a motley crew of seven years try to find the back of the net.
Forget the million dollar payouts and lucrative endorsements, there’s so much more at stake strapping on your boots to play suburban soccer.
Standing by the sidelines one recent early morning, cursing the dark clouds pregnant with rain but refusing to shed a drop, I could name at least a hundred other things I could be doing. I wasn’t the only other person praying for rain.
With jerseys hanging down around their knees and the occasional snot running free on a cold winter’s morning, a bunch of kids were given their orders. Striker, centre back, right midfield and left right out.
A couple of kids were clearly not in the coach’s inner-circle. Sitting together with eyes wide in the hope of being called forth, they passed the agonising first half digging their studs into the field and pulling out strands of grass.
What happened in the next half was more of the same. Overlooked, the coach screamed like a madman at the team privileged enough to make it on the field.
“Riiiight, I said, GO RIGHT!” followed by, “Don’t stand there: THERE,” waving non-specifically at a confused seven-year-old.
His voice got louder with every goal scored against his team and with clear-as-mud instructions the team continued to flounder.
Whatever the case, the kids on the sidelines were not going to be used.
One parent was shifting his weight from side to side, clearly agitated, finally getting the coach’s attention.
His child in clean-as-a-whistle uniform was reluctantly allowed to join the game. He was no Tim Cahill, but he was never going to improve his game by sitting on the sidelines either.
Two minutes on was enough, and the coach, who by now had drawn quite a crowd with his brash coaching, pulled the child off. He wandered back to the sidelines, knowing his place.
Perhaps the coach thought he was in the big league and he could do as he pleased with his team. But with no trillion dollar contracts to rip up and the club ethos stipulating all kids were given equal play, I was thinking he was the moron of the year. I wasn’t the only one.
The father of the dejected child walked over to his kid and announcing they were leaving. The coach turned to ask: “What’s the problem, mate?”
Really? Did he have to ask? It was kind of obvious to everybody else. What was said is not fit to print. What started as a loud conversation about the coach’s responsibility to teach the kids to play soccer turned into a personal verbal assault. It was embarrassing and confronting for all who witnessed the coach and the parent vent their fury.
In front of a bunch of second-graders, these two men carried on like children. There was no retreat from either.
I could empathise with the dad, as I felt his frustration. Nobody wants their child to be short-changed, but was this too much?
I know this could’ve happened in any sporting code on any given weekend, but there’s something to be said about a lazy rainy Saturday and not having to deal with crazy coaches and irate parents. I really wish it had rained that day.