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Confessions of a Soccer Dad

By Mark S. Lawson - posted Tuesday, 3 August 2004

In my short career as a soccer dad I have never abused a referee. In fact, in the under sixes (my son is six) there is no point in yelling at the referee as they rarely do anything except herd the kids on the right side of the line during kick-off, allocate the throw-ins and declare the goals.

At that age the kids do not seem to be malicious. Trips and pushes occasionally occur but accidentally as the kids excitedly follow the ball around in a big pack on a half-sized oval. The only official position is goalie, passing occurs by accident and the off-side rule is way too complicated to enforce. The resulting minimalist refereeing involved is shared, with a parent or a coach from each side taking a half. The emphasis is on giving the kids a go.

So I have never yelled at the referee. Instead, my "encouragement" was initially reserved for my own son who, as even his proud parent must admit, needed some encouragement on a sporting field. For example, David would be standing stock still in the middle of the field, watching the action on another field, when the ball would go past him. He would look at it curiously, as if saying to himself: "The strange sights you see on a soccer field".



He would look around, as if to say "Oh right, I’m meant to be doing something", and trot after the ball.

Or he would finally get the ball and, in his excitement, not realise that he was pointing the wrong way.


Fortunately he missed his own goal.

The reaction of the other parents (said with a smile): “Why should your kid be any different?”


I should say here that it was not my idea to put David into junior soccer but his mother’s - and he enjoys soccer. He looks forward to the game each week. I also try to be positive but I am not as good at that as the team coach who makes every effort to encourage his young charges. Perhaps there was a certain hectoring tone in my cries of “RUN HARDER, DAVID!” as David jogged along quietly somewhere far to the rear of the action. This kid has got me out early on a freezing Saturday morning, and I like to sleep-in, so why doesn’t he perform?

In fact my efforts were counter-productive. While briefly on canteen duty in the home ground, I could see him from the barbecue actually running on the field rather than gently trotting. Dad was not there to pester him so he put in more effort! Hmm! After that I shut up. I even tried to watch from behind a tree, away from the field but gave that up and instead settled for standing back from the touch line and biting back comments. David does play better but perhaps the scouts from Arsenal need not stop by just yet.

All that said there does seem to be a lot of soccer activity in the junior age groups. Soccer has a substantial following in Australia, of course, thanks to the waves of post war migrations from Europe, but as a nation we do not have the standing in the sport that we have in cricket or rugby union. Australian teams regularly humiliate English teams at cricket and Rugby Union (okay, let’s gloss over the world cup) but the Socceroos cannot even get into the Soccer world cup.

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About the Author

Mark Lawson is a senior journalist at the Australian Financial Review. He has written The Zen of Being Grumpy (Connor Court).

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