Recently I went to watch my friend's son play in a middle-school aged football game. At halftime I collected my children who were playing on the playground. As I walked past the team huddle I heard the coach "motivating" his team.
"If you don't want to play freaking football, then get off the freaking field."
He followed that up with "Pull your head out of your, * rear ends."
The coach continued his tirade about the freaking field and leaving it. I looked at the players. Most eyes averted his gaze and were cast downward, looking at the grass. They were all checked out.
Through the grapevine I heard of another head shaking incident.
At another local middle school-aged youth football game, parents of one team were yelling from the sidelines to "take out" specific players on the opposing side.
"Go for their knees!"
When a mother checked on her injured son, she was greeted with an onslaught of expletives from parents and fans. As her son lay on the sidelines injured, she responded as a mother most likely would and asked them to be quiet, using a tone and word she probably regrets.
In response she was charged by a group of players and fans. In self-defense she put up her hands. After the incident a mother on the other team was overheard saying, "Where is that (use your imagination) I'll kick her (use your imagination)."
When I relayed these stories to friends they shrugged it off and said, "That's football."
Unfortunately I don't think its only football where this attitude exists.
Sports were created to inspire. They exist to motivate humans and to push their bodies to their psychical limits. They create a venue where witnesses are privy to an athlete's hard work, dedication and hours spent perfecting their game.
Is football a rough sport? Yes, but that doesn't mean we create a "Lord of the Flies" setting and become savages.
Sports are a combination of the emotional and the physical and learning how to remain composed in the heat of the moment. You learn how to channel the adrenaline and create breathtaking moments.
Youth sports are intended to strengthen communities, to provide outlets for kids and allow them to learn what it means to be part of a team.
Parents should be supportive of both sides. Under those helmets and uniform is someone's child, brother, grandson, daughter, niece.
You wouldn't walk into another town and start screaming "take out their knees" as you journey down the sidewalk. You would be arrested.
So why is it okay to behave that way just because a helmet and uniform are involved?
I'm all for passion, but to scream, yell, swear? It gets old. These stories are becoming the norm and when you see a team that is able to rise above it all, they are in the minority.
If a parent, boss or coach continually swears, it loses its effectiveness. When all you hear is what you are doing wrong, or being told to play dirty, it creates insecure children, and an unproductive and negative environment. Players zone out instead of playing "in" the zone.
I wonder if banning fans is the answer. Then the simplicity of sports can return. No screaming, no swearing, no eyes to watch. Instead, the motivation comes from within, as sports are intended.
A good leader knows how to motivate without the dramatics. Some of my best coaches knew when to yell and when an icy glare was enough to get the point across. Quite frankly, a look can be more terrifying. The swearing, the threats -- that's not passion. It's not toughening anybody up.
These aren't Roman gladiators fighting to the death in the ring. These are kids, 10- and 12-year-old kids. Try to remember their lives aren't at stake -- they are simply playing a game.