Ali Attitude Unbecoming in Youth Sports

Last fall, when my son started playing soccer, I was not enthusiastic. The men-folk of the family, however, were all for the idea. Of course, they would have preferred to see him in greasepaint and shoulder pads, foaming at the mouth and chewing on a slab of raw meat.
Soccer was an acceptable compromise.
My son would be required to wear shin-guards, which pleased the male contingent of the family, who apparently determine the manliness of a sport by what percentage of the body is wrapped in protective plastic. And I was satisfied that he would not get his baby teeth knocked out and end up sucking soup through a straw until he was seven.
So, we signed up.
Although there is no scorekeeping in his age division, during one of those games, Mr. Smartypant’s team was noticeably trampled. The defeat might have escaped the team’s attention had one of the opposing players not felt obligated to point it out.
“Ya’ll don’t have no goals! And we have, like, fifty!” he announced in a typical five-year old fashion.
Mr. Smartypants stomped off the field that afternoon determined to quit.
So, he got the speech. He made a commitment to himself and his team. He would honor the commitment and accept defeat graciously. Then, I delegated the rest of the matter to Poor Daddy assuming that Daddies and sports are the equivalent of Mommies and training bras. Sometimes, parents claim an issue by virtue of their gender. This was one of those things.

As the season progressed, my son gained confidence and improved his attitude. I was proud. And we all know what happens to proud parents, don’t we?
During the fourth quarter of the final game, my son positioned himself for the kick-off, took an aggressive stance, snarled his lip and growled at the other team across the center line.
I elbowed Poor Dad and felt my pride prepare to goeth, “Um, your son is growling at the other team.”
“Uh-huh,” he said.
“Uh… he’s snarling. The boy looks like Elvis in shin guards!”
Then, my husband smiled that patronizing `your just a girl’ smile.
“Let it go. It’s a boy thing,” he declared.

Later, my husband explained that this is normal. When boys become involved with sports, they practice mental intimidation. This happened at all levels, all ages and all sports. Furthermore, it was his official fatherly opinion, that as long as our son didn’t push, hold, break any rules or use physical intimidation, we should ignore the behavior. I had to contemplate on this for a while. Was this really the consequence of an aberrant male gene? Was it yet another mutant man-thing, I, being afflicted with the opposing chromosome, couldn’t possibly understand?

You know, since my son’s birth, many undesirable behaviors have been excused by his gender.
When Daddy taught Mr. Smartypants to spit, pee outdoors and yell, “Hey woman, make me a sammich!” Daddy shrugged off my objections and said, “Ah, he’s a boy.”
When my son stomped through a mud puddle in his church shoes and threw a bug on my Mamma, my husband chuckled and said, “Boys will be boys.”
When all the men-folk sent my son flying down a dang-near perpendicular hill on his preschool scooter – and sent him headfirst into a tree… guess what they said?
“Ah, he’ll be alright. He’s a boy.”

Now, I do not want to overstep my girl boundaries here or go wading into that forbidden testosterone territory. But as a mother, isn’t it my job to guide, nurture, and correct whatever my child learns from less evolved members of the family? Surely, there had to be some middle ground that would allow me to address the behavior while remaining within my motherly margins. The middle ground turned out to be the back yard.

We were kicking the ball around. He growled at me, I stole the ball and thrashed him soundly.

“Mamma, that’s not fair!” He accused, “You’re playin big people soccer!”
“Well, you’re growling at me!”
He crossed his arms and pouted as I sat down beside him.
“Look, I’ll make you a deal,” I offered, “If you stop growling when you play soccer, I won’t tell your friends you got beaten by a girl. Deal?”
“Deal!” he said, and we shook hands.
So, there you have it: problem solved, mamma-style.


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