One Mom’s Observations from the Sidelines

The zone offense I hope my kids utilize every time they hit the field.

I spend a lot of time on the sidelines of my kids’ sporting events. I have to be honest, I’m not well-versed in all the rules and regulations associated with every sport. I know the basics, I can follow the games, and I can pick out a variety of skill levels on the fields. I cannot site the reason for every whistle, card, and flag, but I get by and can appreciate the intricacies of the different games.

I love going to all types of ballgames and watching my kids work their hardest at the sports they love. Since I’m not an aficionado in all things regulatory on the field, my focus often turns to some of the other nuances that don’t make their way into the playbooks. I find myself observing how players, parents, and coaches conduct themselves during the games. Since there isn’t necessarily a rule or playbook for this, the behaviors displayed can run the gamut.

Entering the Zone – There’s a lot of talk about the zone that players enter during a game where there is a channeled focus on adding a tally to the win column. I get that. The drive to win is part of human nature. But I’ve seen some pretty disparaging examples from the sidelines as players move toward attainment.

It often seems that these zones are void of all the qualities we strive to instill in our children off the fields. It’s okay for the most rudimentary forms of common decency to be off the table for the sake of the zone and the win. It’s not every team, and it’s not every player, but it’s not the exception either. My fear is that it will become the norm.

The game where I silently applauded #12 from the other team.

I was sitting next to my mother-in-law at one of those too cold to feel your toes soccer games where the layers and bundles leave only your eyes exposed to watch the game. It was a U17 game, so these weren’t little ones running the fields. We’re talking rock solid teenagers who exceed us in the height and weight columns.

As one of said players came barreling toward us to keep the ball in bounds, his full-speed momentum was halted by my mother-in-law. I took one arm of the collision, and it stung. She took the head-on, full force of bringing that body in motion to a stop. Just as quickly as he crashed, the player pushed off my visibly shaken mother-in-law and returned to the game.

Not a word was uttered as he remained in the zone, which leaves me bewildered and wondering- When does the perfunctory instinct to express concern for another penetrate the zone? I wasn’t expecting a lengthy apology or a shout for a medic, but I also wasn’t expecting nothing. You’d think that a crash could knock someone out of the zone long enough to at least utter, I’m sorry.  Was my mother-in-law just a casualty of the game where players strive for the win?

As I rubbed the sting on my arm through my bundled layers, I quickly saw another sideline display. Number 12 from the opposing team came to retrieve a ball that had made its way out of bounds. When my husband tossed it to him, #12 said, Thank you, Sir. My faith that gameplay can occur in a civil zone was beginning to be restored.  

I kept my eye on #12. He offered a hand up to a fallen player from our team. He patted the back of one of our guys in a show of comradery as the ref blew the whistle to momentarily halt the game. He also displayed the same skill level of ball handling and play as the others, and he did all of this while being in the civil zone.

I know there is a psychological component to the strategies players use on the field. I also know that I love it when my impressionable five-year-old picks up on the nuances of kindness and civility that can take place on the field. We’re able to talk about playing respectfully and the ability to thread kindness through all aspects of our lives, even as part of the zone offense utilized on the field.  

With my youngest as an unofficial team member, we’ve been to a lot of games, and there will be a lot of games in our future. I’m not expecting perfection. My hope is that the positive aspects and the behaviors of players like #12 will be the ones that stand out and drive the zones of all kids on and off the playing fields.

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