When A Coach Is Wrong And I’m Okay With It

I went to a little league football game.

To be transparent and upfront about it I am related to the coach I’m going to write about and one of the players.  But I’m not much into sports right now.  I’m full on into activity but not so much sports.  If there is ‘a’ sport I know something about, it’s football.   Though I can’t coach from the sidelines or quarterback from the armchair I can follow the game.

We show up before the half, in time to watch the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters.

“My” team, who I have never seen before and only have an affinity for because of one young player, had scored once.  The other team had scored once.   Tie game.

From the time I arrived until the game was over I saw the other team have one penalty called.   “Our” team had ten or eleven penalties called.  I was a little stunned at the missed calls and apparently over looked calls.   It got to the point where I was embarrassed for the officials.  And upset the coach on the other team wasn’t even saying anything.  It was that bad.

I witnessed one play where one of our players was standing upright and was plowed in to by a player on the other team, I heard the crash of the helmets and ‘our’ player go flat out on his back.   There was no call.   I was stunned.  Again, to be fair, my husband said he thought it was a good hit from what he saw.   I disagree, but okay.   That was only one play.  I witnessed holding.  I witnessed shoving from the back.  And I don’t know what some of the things I saw from the other team were called, other than “unsportsmanlike”  behavior.   One play ended with the opposing team player on top of our player, there was a grab and slam of the player on the ground as the opposing team player got up.   Wow, was what I thought.  What, exactly, are these kids being taught.

The one penalty I witnessed called against the other team, in three quarters, ended with the coach on the opposing team angry and yelling at the refs.  I was shocked.  And I heard some of the parents behind me say “he’s really going to argue that?”  Our coach encouraged others to let it go.  He didn’t want to waste time on the ridiculousness of what was going on.

There were only a few minutes left to play and we had another relative to go watch in another football game.  I was saying my goodbyes when it happened.  Another gut wrenching helmet into another one of our players.  One of those sounds that is never good.  On any football field.

“Our” coach reacted when the officials did not call it.

Our coach was loudly expressing his concern to the officials for not calling the play.  The officials were expressing their dislike of our coach’s reaction.

The officiating team encouraged a response from our coach by making ‘statements’ to him about his inappropriateness.   Our coach countered with he “would be wrong then, if it meant sticking up for the safety of his players”.  If they felt that was wrong he said again, “I’ll be wrong all day long if it means protecting my players”.  They ejected him from the game.

Up to this point the supporters of our team were encouraging and complementary.  As the coach walked off the field as he was told to do, the team supporters intensified their encouragement.  They told the kids to protect themselves, they needed to.  They cheered the players to keep playing, even though the game was ‘lost’ I knew the lessons were not.

For all of the frustration these families had to sit there and stomach I was impressed with what followed.

I stood there as the ‘losing’ team came off of the field.  The supporters clapped loudly and cheered them.  I noticed the other team, on the other side, walked off to a quiet and no-response side line.  There was no cheering on the other side of the field.  None.

On this side I heard calls of “good job”, “good season”, “great effort”.   Nothing but positive comments.

After the game the coach returned to his team to talk with them.  I saw parents shake his hand.

I know emotions are high in the little league, bitty league world of sports.   I know parents have a difficult time, maybe even more so than the kids, when their kids lose.  I know sometimes we should just be quiet and accept the official’s calls.

But sometimes….the officials are wrong.

Maybe the coach shouldn’t have yelled at the official.   But when he said to the offical “I’ll be wrong all day long if it means protecting my players”  I had to agree.

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25 thoughts on “When A Coach Is Wrong And I’m Okay With It

  1. niaaeryn says:

    I would agree with the coach too. It is first duty to watch out for them. I cannot fathom the officials not noticing how bad it was, but I suppose they knew the other tea’s coach would react poorly, and from what I gather he did, to any criticism of his team. Still, concussions are no small matter. Good for the coach and the parents being there for the kids.
    When the other side is silent though…troubling and telling as to why they may have played the way they did?

    • It was like the one team had 15 players. I don’t normally notice these things so much, there are going to be missed calls and grumblings on both sides. But wow, I was so blown away by the neglect of that officiating team.

      ANd yeah….I can’t help but worry about what those other kids may be learning.

  2. Paul says:

    I was with my wife’s kids through the ages of 5 to 20 and both – a girl and a boy – were active in many team sports. So many of the officials are volunteers and so often I could see errors or even sometimes deliberate favoritism – as seemed to be the case in the game you described Colleen. The reactions from the teams varied wildly from far too picky to far too accepting – in my mind. It is all so much a matter of the individuals. When I saw a team being so obviously discriminated against I used to cheer for them – regardless of who was playing that team. Not much but just my little part. I did some officiating (time keeper in hockey) and it was very stressful = parents yelling and screaming. Many times I had to have parents ejected and once even stopped and defaulted a game (with the referees) because of verbal abuse. It is hard all around – which does not justify unfair or uneven treatment of the teams.

    • I would not want to be a ref or umpire Paul. I admire the people who get out there and do it as volunteers and/or the tiny stipends they may be getting. I’ve seen horrible behavior from the side lines in the name of coaching and/or parenting/supporting. I’ve seen a lot of class and grace coming from officials before.

      This was the first time I saw such horrible actions/inactions from the officials. I really was stunned.

  3. ksbeth says:

    i love the ending of this piece. the lesson was powerful for all.

  4. tric says:

    Wrong is wrong all day long but as you showed here life teaches lessons. I’d probably have been ejected too but the parents were fantastic.
    Sport can be very corrupt.

  5. reocochran says:

    The coach was really right. I am sure the other team had some conscience but they obviously have allowed their kids to develop bad habits of pushing and over doing their force. My grandson, Skyler, is not pushy and sometimes expresses a little pain or soreness. I hope he will leave football and get into cross country , basketball and track. 3 seasons of sports I won’t be quite so upset and cringing all the time. My youngest daughter experience in soccer in Delaware started out well (age 9 on. . .) but her junior
    and senior years were tough, until she quit joined Cross Country and got her 2nd Letter for doing outstanding in the OCC. Her CC coach told her bluntly that the other coach’s loss was his gain. (Soccer involves a lot if roughness and her coach would shout,”Be more aggressive” repeatedly.)
    She has had JRA and as an adult RA (forms of rheumatoid arthritis) still doesn’t slow down. 🙂 I hope Sky will leave football bur will support him if he doesn’t.

    • I enjoy football but do fear injuries. But I suppose that’s likely just living life.

      I was truly shocked at the officiating of this game. It’s not like the officials should have even had an interest in one team winning over another.

      I still can’t wrap my head around the behaviors I saw on that field by the adults. Except for the coach, who I completely understood!

  6. I think that is when I would take my child out of that sport if the officials are not going to watch out for the children’s safety! Terrible!

  7. inmycorner says:

    I agree: the most important thing is to maintain the integrity of the child!

  8. I love this post Colleen. I have been at my daughter’s soccer games where this has happened numerous times, to no avail. We give our girls an extra loud cheer for good sportswoman ship and our coaches an even louder cheer for keeping everything positive and happyfor these U10 players. It happens so often now that I don’t even know what to say.
    What a positive and wonderful lesson- Protect the children at all costs.

    • Thanks MM. I have never sat at a child’s event where the parents were yelling at the kids “protect yourselves!” because of the OFFICIALS! Or, ever, for that matter. I do admire the coaches and parents and officials who remember the purpose of sports. It’s a wonderful and valuable opportunity for the kids.

  9. Mustang.Koji says:

    My honest opinion is that kid’s leagues are just too cut throat these days… Perhaps it’s because many see it as the only way to make money as a future career for their kids.

    When I was young, the only baseball/basketball team I played on was my Buddhist temple’s. We played against other “Japanese-American” teams in a combo league comprised of other churches (not necessarily temples).

    As my friend Alan Miyatake knows, we always lost but we’re taught to play nicely. So were our coaches; a couple we’re 442nd vets. They never swore nor threw tirades at an official. Sportsmanship was our motto although we wished we could have won once in awhile.

  10. In order to keep the kudos and control of the game, everyone needs to respect the referee. Even if they’ve made an incorrect call, arguing with the referee won’t benefit your team. The idea is to stop the abuse of referees and stamp out these actions. You can read more on the blog: https://iftheresnoref.wordpress.com/

    • Michael thank you for reading and commenting. I agree in theory and have never appreciated parents or coaches yelling at referees. I recognize it won’t benefit the team. As with most things in life….there may be instances when rules aren’t working well. There did seem to be a line crossed when the players, in this case young children, are at risk because of the actions or inactions of the officiating team. There is no point in arguing incorrect calls, that has proven it’s self. I went to a game after this game and the ref missed a call, a coach pointed it out and the ref said “I can only call it the way I actually see it”. Coach shrugged, accepted his point. We all know that happens. We are talking about human eyes. I will say the coach in this incident did not approach the officials, did not get in anyone’s face, and left immediately when he was told to do so. He had an extremely valid and important point to make.

  11. markbialczak says:

    Your relative is a good coach, a smart coach. He let calls go until it meant the safety of his players were in question, it seems, MBC. That you can never let go. What’s wrong with these officials? I wonder if they were lousy or somehow calling things in favor of the other team on purpose? Either way, that’s bad for the young players. Your side’s parents set a great example with their support at the end of the game! I cheer for them.

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