No More Yelling: How I Became the Quietest Sports Dad on the Sidelines by Mark Stackpole
Last soccer season, I had to make a promise to my son: I will no longer yell when I am on the sidelines. For some reason, watching him play soccer turned me into a raving lunatic. Maybe it is because I don’t understand the game as well as I do other sports. He never seemed to be running fast enough, kicking the ball in the right direction or getting to the right spot on the field. Of course, this just revealed my own ignorance of the game – he was doing just fine.
In fact, he is actually a pretty good player on a pretty good team. With all of this in mind, I asked him if he could hear me yelling at him and if it embarrassed him. “I can hear you, and it embarrasses me a little bit,” he replied. In other words, I might as well have had a megaphone and a neon sign while humiliating my son.
“Is your leg broken? Are you sick? Why are you running so slow?” was a favorite of mine. I also regularly advised him to “kick the ball,” which seems a painfully obvious (and dumb) thing to yell to a soccer player. “What are you dooooooooing?” is an easy catchphrase for any situation wherein you think your young athlete is screwing something up. During one game, I was yelling at a referee so loudly that my wife walked away from me and pretended to be attending the game with another family.
Gradually, I learned the importance of turning my back to field and taking a quick walk in the other direction. I became skilled at yelling with my mouth closed, or as I liked to call it, “the angry hum.”
I wanted him to do well, and I wanted his team to win. I wanted other kids and parents to congratulate him on a great game. I wanted. I wanted. I wanted. I’m sensing a pattern. But he just wanted to have fun. What he wanted from me was love, support and pride in his efforts. All of which I could give him … quietly.
So now, I am the quietest dad on the sidelines. I have kept my promise to him. Even when he scores a goal or makes a great play, I do not cheer, but rather, I give him our secret sign: a triple fist pump that speaks volumes in its very silence. When he is struggling, I give him a nod of encouragement instead of a flippant criticism.
I never miss a game. He knows that I am always there for him – even if he can’t hear me.
Especially since he can’t hear me.
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