That’s what my 6-year old, Brayden, said Monday when we greeted him after his team’s 2-0 loss in the championship game of a soccer tournament.
I could hardly believe my ears.
First of all, he should know that we don’t talk like that in our house. Second, I had no idea where a statement like that came from. I immediately took a knee to get down to Brayden’s level and asked him why he would say something like that.
“Dad, we didn’t even score one goal.” he replied.
“That doesn’t matter Brayden.” I said. “You were hustling your butt off out there. You tried your best, right?”
“Yes. But some of the other kids were just standing around, not trying at all.” Brayden said.
“That doesn’t matter. They’re still your teammates and you don’t talk bad about your teammates.” I told him.
In Brayden’s defense, there were a few kids on his team who weren’t really into the game. They stood around and just let the other team go by them. Or they were out of position, resulting in a wide open shot and goal for the other team. But that’s no excuse for his sudden bad attitude.
His negative statements were so out of character. I wanted to talk to him more about what he said and dig deeper into his comments, but with all the other parents and players around, it wasn’t the time or place.
A Trophy For A Team That Doesn’t Suck
After the game, the team that beat Brayden’s team received a big, first place team trophy. Each player on the team also received an individual trophy. For taking second place, Brayden’s team received a big team trophy, but no individual trophies.
This actually worked out well. Brayden was excited that his team still won a trophy. After I took a photo of him holding the trophy I talked to him for a few seconds.
“Who won this trophy Bray?” I asked.
“My team.” Brayden said.
“That’s right. Your team did. You guys worked together and earned this trophy. Would you have earned this if you were a bad team? Or if you guys stunk?” I followed up.
“No.” Brayden replied.
“OK then. I don’t ever want to hear you say something like that about one of your teams again. OK?” I said.
“OK.” Brayden answered.
Wired To Compete
Brayden is a competitive kid by nature. I love that about him. I’d much rather have to reel him in on occasion than try to constantly motivate him to do his best.
But what he said yesterday, just wasn’t like him. He’s always up beat. Even after a loss. There was something else going on. Something else contributed to his sudden negative outlook on the game he just played.
A Revealing Talk
Monday night at bedtime, I had a chance to talk to Brayden about his comments after the game. When I asked him why he said his team sucked, he gave an extremely revealing answer.
He said, “Because we didn’t play good.”
“Brayden, you guys played awesome. Why would you think that you didn’t play good?” I asked.
“Because. Coach went like this (he clapped his hands together and threw them up in the air, in an angry fashion). And he said the ‘D’ word when we didn’t score and when the other team scored.”
I didn’t really have an answer for that one. So I just said, “Well, those were bad choices by coach. He shouldn’t have done those things. But no matter how your coaches, or teammates behave, I want you to always have a good attitude. OK? It’s OK to want to win your games. There’s nothing wrong with that. But you know what? You’re not going to win every game you play. And when you don’t win, you can’t have a bad attitude about losing. The Cardinals didn’t win every game they played last year. But they were still the World Series Champs, right?”
I won’t bore you with the rest of our talk. It was your typical, win with class, lose with class sports chat. “There’s nothing wrong with losing, as long as you lose trying your best.” You know, that kind of stuff.
You’re Not Here To Have Fun?
I’m really bothered by what Brayden said about his coach though. This is Brayden’s third season playing for him. In previous seasons, coach has always preached the importance of fun. He’s always treated every player with equal respect, regardless of the talent or interest level. That’s why we’ve always liked him. He always kept things in perspective. I mean, you know, we’re not talking about a select team of older kids here. It’s a first grade team in a catholic school league.
In the last few weeks though, there’s been something different about coach. I don’t know if it has been this preseason tournament that we just wrapped up or what. But all of a sudden, he seems focused on winning. He’s also had a shorter temper with the boys at practices. Yelling a lot more.
My wife took Brayden to his last practice and she was really bothered by what she saw and heard. She said that at one point he got upset and said, “I’m not here to have fun!”
She said she couldn’t hear the exact context of why he said that, but that statement by itself is cause for concern. If you’re not coaching first grade boys soccer to have fun, then why the heck are you doing it?
And for the record, Kim alerted this practice incident to me last week, before this weekend’s games.
During the championship game coach also seemed to have a short temper. He was yelling at kids for being out of position and not coming back to help on defense. He yelled at some of the kids who didn’t go after the ball. (I’m not talking about yelling, as in he had to so they could hear him. This was yelling like he was angry and frustrated with the boys.)
Then, he actually benched a couple kids in the second half. Seriously. Two of our players hardly played at all in the second half. That’s just not right. Not at this age and at this level. Like I said, we’re not talking about a select team here.
My Game Plan
Since this stuff seemed so out of character for coach, I’m willing to cut him some slack. Maybe he just got a little too caught up in the competition of the tournament setting. I don’t know. But I’m really hoping that coach is back to his old self now that the tournament is over. If not, I’m definitely going to talk with him and voice our concerns. I really think it would impact him if I told him how Brayden felt about the last game as a result of his actions on the field.
Brayden is like the engine that makes his team go. He’s a stopper on defense and he generates the majority of our scoring chances. He goes nonstop. So if Brayden was feeling that negatively about his and the team’s performance, then what must his teammates have thought and felt?
I really hope that I don’t have to have a talk with coach. But if this continues into this week’s practice, I won’t have a choice.
UPDATE: I’m pleased to report that after this tournament, coach returned to his normal fun-loving self. There were a couple of slip ups the rest of the season, but nothing like the tournament behavior. He’s a good guy and I was happy to have him back!
Have you ever dealt with a similar situation? Did you have a talk with the coach? Let me know how the situation played out in the comments below.
Thanks for reading.