Bad soccer dads (and moms)

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By Tim Redmond

My mom and dad never wanted me to play Little League baseball, and they were very clear about the reasons: They didn't want to deal with the other parents. Me, I'm glad my kids are in a local soccer league. I'm the team dad for the Pumas (Go Pumas!); we have a great coach and great kids and parents, we don't keep score at the games, and nobody takes it too seriously as long as the kids are having fun. The main job of the team dad is to make sure there's an adequate snack for halftime at every game. My main job as a parent is to try to make sure that Michael, who likes to play goalie, is actually paying attention when the ball comes near him, instead of searching for bugs in the grass.

But apparently it's getting ugly out there, even in microscoccer, where all the kids are under 8.

I realize that parents have been known to go completely crazy on the fields of play, but I've never seen it in San Francisco. So when I showed up for a mandatory parents meeting for all microsoccer kids -- attend or your kid can't play -- last Sunday afternoon, I wasn't prepared for what was coming. A league official gave us a handout that set the tone:

"Reasons for this meeting:

Six assault charges in two years
Parents yelling and screaming from the sidelines
Coaches making up their own rules
Dads walking onto fields and taking whistles from moms
Coaches fighting over practice fields
Parents walking onto the field during hte middle of the game to videotape their child
Hired coaches (!?) not knowing any of the league rules"

and on and on.

It offered us this training scenario, which actually happened last season:

"A parent from the other team doesn't like the way you are refereeing a game. She has been complaining bitterly about your calls, challenging your authority. She has become increasingly exasperated. You hear a whistle. Play has stopped and now you know why. The woman upset with your calls has gotten a whistle, called a ball out of bounds and is now walking onto the field, picking up the ball and about to award the ball to her team when one of your parents confronts her and yanks the ball away from her. The sideline "ref" responds by hitting your parent. What do you do?"

All of these problems -- all of them -- came from parents with kids under 7 years old.

Somebody needs to take a chill pill.

PS: "Dads walking onto the field and taking whistles from moms?" How exactly does that work?