Dear Mrs. Beauregarde

RFD-trophies

Dear Mrs. Beauregarde,

I don’t know you’re real name but I give nicknames to people who I “people watch” and you earned the nickname Mrs. Beauregarde.  Mrs. Beauregarde is the all-or-nothing; “keep your eye on the prize” mother of Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie.  The new Charlie and The Chocolate Factory with Johnny Depp not the Willy Wonka movie with Gene Hackman, I have to clarify because my husband likes the original and my daughter likes the new one.  I was a geek and read the actual book.

Mrs. Beauregard, you caught my attention at what is hopefully my very last ever soccer tournament.  You weren’t a parent on my field you were on a field behind me, and technically two fields away but I could hear you.  What caught my attention, and several other people’s attention, was your screaming at the top of your lungs “Get Open! Get Open! Don’t let her push you like that!  Push Back! OH MY GAWD, follow your shot… FOLLOW YOUR SHOT!” When I turned around I expected to see a USWNT World Cup qualifying match.  But what I saw was little girls – like I would have said they were eight year old little girls, but my son informed me that the tournament was U11 and up.  So ten-year old little girls, I was off a bit.  For fun, and because it was halftime, I actually turned my chair around and started watching you.

You were sitting near the 15 yard line (yes there are yard lines in soccer – they aren’t marked but they are there) and every time your child’s team got near the goal you were out of your seat yelling.  You would scream all sorts of directions to poor little Violet, telling her to use her left foot, dribble more, dribble less, and for God’s sake FOLLOW YOUR SHOT!  Um…. She’s ten.  If she can use her left foot to shoot she’s probably already got coaches lining up to sign her because even my left-handed 18-year-old son struggles with shooting left footed.  And the whole follow your shot thing, it’s a great idea, but again she’s ten and is probably tired and knows she now has to run back to play defense.

In all fairness, Mrs. Beauregarde, it’s all about perspective.  You are at the beginning of your child’s soccer “career” and this is quite possibly even your first season.  I am at the end, or at least the end of travel soccer and I have a lot of experiences to reflect back on.  I’m not going to lie and say I’ve never yelled at a soccer game because I have, but usually I’m yelling things like “Watch your mouth! Was that yellow card really worth it? Retaliation always gets the foul.” and again “Watch your mouth!”  And truth be told I don’t usually yell, I wait until he’s near me on the field so I can say it at a reasonable volume.  Mostly because I know that screaming at the very top of my lungs means that everyone within three fields of me is turning around to see who that parent is.

I hope your daughter loves playing soccer.  I hope she loves it enough to want to keep doing it in spite of the fact that she has that parent on the sideline yelling and screaming at her every time she has the ball.  I’ve seen that nearly ruin a soccer player.  I mean how embarrassing must it be for a child to have to tell their parent to stop yelling during a game?  I’ve seen that happen.  Of course there’s the chance that your daughter is learning from you and acts just like you.  And eventually will start yelling at her teammates in the same condescending manner you yell at her.  That doesn’t end well either – in case you’re wondering – and yes I’ve seen that happen too.

Currently you are on a crash course to being the parent everyone avoids at the games.  And unfortunately for your daughter the parent that the coaches avoid at all costs.  Like fake-a-seizure-so-I-don’t-have-to-talk-to-that-parent kind of avoidance.  The kids pick up on it too and will probably start teasing her.  Yes, I’ve seen that happen too – it’s not pretty.  Again, I hope she loves soccer so much that all of these things won’t matter to her because if she doesn’t in a few years she will hate soccer.

I don’t know what your motivation is for acting that way.  There are all the cliché reasons like you didn’t get to play soccer, got cut from a team, never realized your full potential, or you were great a soccer player back in the day and want your kids to be like you.  Maybe it’s because soccer is expensive and you expect more for your money (PS if this is your reason you should quit now).  Or you just expect perfection from everyone, or hell, maybe you just like to scream at the top of your lungs.  It doesn’t really matter why you do it, you just need to stop.  For your daughter’s sake, or if nothing else so you don’t have to pay for therapy when she’s 16.

In closing, Mrs. Beauregarde, please know that it’s just one game.  You will have hundreds more in your future and Violet will make mistakes and she will make awesome plays too.  There will terrible calls from the officials that can’t be reversed.  There will be wins and losses.  There will be good coaches and bad coaches and sometimes she may not get to play the position she wants to play.  If you can’t accept all of this you need to quit now because it’s going to get a lot harder as she gets older.

Remember, “Keep your eye on the prize!”  Just realize the prize isn’t always winning.

Participant: Life

I’m going to dust off my soap-box… did people really stand on soap-boxes to make speeches?

Not my normal soap-box involving the severe lack of research and support for childhood cancer, but something totally off the wall for me.

Can we please…… please, please, please stop blaming giving out trophies to all kids who participate in a sport or extra-curricular activity for … well just about everything?

I know it’s not really a soap-box worthy topic, but gimmie a minute and it might be.  I tend to be a social media voyeur, I know that sounds weird but I don’t know what else you would call it.  I have, as you know if you’re reading this, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.  But I don’t post a whole lot of things.  Maybe a “share” here or there, way too many pictures of my dogs and food and a lot of pictures by the beach when I’m on vacation.  But I’m on social media almost all day long, scrolling and watching.  Partially because I tend to find out quickly about emergencies or weather events I may or may not need to be aware of for my job, but partially just because I find it really interesting to watch.  I watch band-wagons and trends.  I resist the sometimes uncontrollable urge to reply to certain posts – thus giving away my political or religious opinions which I believe everyone SHOULD KEEP TO THEMSELVES!

But there has been a growing trend, more so recently in the last few months, of people blaming younger people’s (ok Millennials) attitudes, opinions, actions etc. on the fact that they all got trophies for just “showing up.”  My first problem with this is that Millennials are only grouped together by a common time frame when they were born.  Just like Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers.  All it’s supposed to mean is that we are a generation of people exposed to the same time frame while growing up.  It doesn’t mean that this general category of people all possess the same attitudes, opinions, actions – those things are formed by the person’s life experiences.

My second problem with this is that nobody even thought to question the practice of giving out trophies to everyone until after the “Meet the Focker’s” movie.

“Yep they give out ribbons all the way through 10th place!”

There is not one article – psychology paper, general social media rant – nothing before 2010 that brings up the concept that giving everyone a trophy is causing the basic moral decay of humanity.  Yes I researched it.  Before I was a mere blogger I had aspirations of a journalism career, where I learned to research stuff before I put it print.  Because if I don’t – you will.  That is one concept that apparently has been skipped in Journalism 101 for several years now (another soapbox, another day).

So I’m not sure where this trend started but please make it stop!  If you’re still standing around my soap-box I’ll now explain why giving out trophies to all kids isn’t a “thing.”  At least not a “thing” to use as some general explanation of why someone did something you don’t understand or agree with.  When my son was three years old he started playing soccer.  By “playing” soccer, I mean he showed up every Saturday for 6 weeks or so and kicked a ball around with about 15 other kids for an hour and got a juice box and cookie at the end.  At the end of the 6 weeks everyone got a little medal with a soccer ball on it.  That seems fair don’t you think?  Not every kid in our neighborhood got up at 8 AM on Saturday and went to play on a team and learn some social and athletic skills.  It wasn’t competitive.  It wasn’t supposed to be!  My son, at 3 didn’t understand that it wasn’t competitive and I had to repeatedly apologize to parents for his actions which looking back should have been a good indication of why sometimes I have to sit very far away from the opposing teams parents now….., but that’s another story for another day.

By the time we got to PeeWee baseball trust me competitive kicked in – more so in the parents than the kids – but it was a “sport” now.  There were trophies for first, second and third place – and a World Series tournament at the end, winner-take all.  In the Minor League (age 7-9) and Major League (10-12) in addition to the World Series there was a Homerun Derby and a Pitching contest.  Trust me everyone didn’t get a ribbon for that.  Yes everyone who participated in the league got something, sometimes a small plaque or a baseball but it was very clear who the winners were.

Same thing with soccer, I remember when my son was 12, the Optimist Soccer program participated in a county-wide league for more competitive play which culminated in a huge tournament at the end of the season.  His last year to play in this league his team fought tooth and nail to “win” third place – and I’m not exaggerating.  I’ve seen World Cup games that don’t compare to the intensity that I saw that day.  And he got a third place trophy – AND HE DESERVED IT!  In years past his team was in that “also-ran” category: 6th place and 4th place, and they got medals (I think – it’s been awhile – it might have been a ribbon) just like the teams that got 9th and 10th.  And that just fueled their passion to get that trophy and they wanted 1st place, but they celebrated 3rd place like it was the final round of the World Cup.

So please…. Stop telling kids they don’t deserve that Participation ribbon.  They most certainly do – because they did do something.  Maybe they weren’t the best but trust me they know who won or who was better than they were.  And they will use that information for one of two things, to find something they are the best at or to work harder to be the best; even at the tender age of 6 or 7, if not then definitely by age 10 or 11.

And stop blaming everyone getting a trophy for “what’s wrong” with the Millennial generation.  The only thing that’s “wrong” with their generation is that they are young, and still learning their way in the World.  Just like the Gen X’er’s before them and the Boomers before them.  Show of hands, who made perfect choices in their 20’s?

In case I haven’t convinced you I will leave you with one last thought.  If the Millennial generation has really suffered so much from this horrible practice of giving out participation awards how do you explain the 2016 Rio Olympics?  The average age of the US Olympic Athlete is 27 years old and the youngest athlete is 16 (PS – that makes her an i-Gen not a Millennial). In case you missed it this summer the United States topped the total medal count with 121 – including 4 Gold and 1 Silver won by 19 year old Stanford student Katie Ledecky. So when you rant on social media that all college students are “snowflakes” and “entitled” do you realize who you are including?  If those statistics don’t convince you I don’t know what else will.

Soapbox tucked away…. for now.

And yes at the turn of the 20th century people really did make public speeches while standing on turned over wooden crates that were used to ship soap.

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