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Kiddie Soccer Is No Laughing Matter

This just in from our intrepid Boston correspondent, J. Zengerle. Scituate (MA) Youth Soccer League coach Michael Kinahan was recently compelled to resign after sending out an introductory email to the parents of the 6-and 7-year old girls on his team. Apparently, some bits of Kinahan's communique rubbed Mommy and Daddy the wrong way:

OK, here’s the real deal: Team 7 will be called Green Death. We will only acknowledge “Team 7” for scheduling and disciplinary purposes. Green Death has had a long and colorful history, and I fully expect every player and parent to be on board with the team. This is not a team, but a family (some say cult), that you belong to forever. We play fair at all times, but we play tough and physical soccer. We have some returning players who know the deal; for the others, I only expect 110% at every game and practice. We do not cater to superstars, but prefer the gritty determination of journeymen who bring their lunch pail to work every week, chase every ball and dig in corners like a Michael Vick pit bull. Unless there is an issue concerning the health of my players or inside info on the opposition, you probably don’t need to talk to me. Coach MacDonald has been designated “good guy” this year.

Some say soccer at this age is about fun and I completely agree. However, I believe winning is fun and losing is for losers. Ergo, we will strive for the “W” in each game. While we may not win every game (excuse me, I just got a little nauseated) I expect us to fight for every loose ball and play every shift as if it were the finals of the World Cup. While I spent a good Saturday morning listening to the legal liability BS, which included a 30 minute dissertation on how we need to baby the kids and especially the refs, I was disgusted. The kids will run, they will fall, get bumps, bruises and even bleed a little. Big deal, it’s good for them (but I do hope the other team is the one bleeding). If the refs can’t handle a little criticism, then they should turn in their whistle. The sooner they figure out how to make a decision and live with the consequences the better. My heckling of the refs is actually helping them develop as people. The political correctness police are not welcome on my sidelines. America’s youth is becoming fat, lazy and non-competitive because competition is viewed as “bad”. I argue that competition is good and is important to the evolution of our species and our survival in what has become an increasingly competitive global economy and dangerous world. Second place trophies are nothing to be proud of as they serve only as a reminder that you missed your goal; their only useful purpose is as an inspiration to do that next set of reps. Do you go to a job interview and not care about winning? Don’t animals eat what they kill (and yes, someone actually kills the meat we eat too – it isn’t grown in plastic wrap)? And speaking of meat, I expect that the ladies be put on a diet of fish, undercooked red meat and lots of veggies. No junk food. Protein shakes are encouraged, and while blood doping and HGH use is frowned upon, there is no testing policy. And at the risk of stating the obvious, blue slushies are for winners.

These are my views and not necessarily the views of the league (but they should be). I recognize that my school of thought may be an ideological shift from conventional norms. But it is imperative that we all fight the good fight, get involved now and resist the urge to become sweat-xedo-wearing yuppies who sit on the sidelines in their LL Bean chairs sipping mocha-latte-half-caf-chinos while discussing reality TV and home decorating with other feeble-minded folks. I want to hear cheering, I want to hear encouragement, I want to get the team pumped up at each and every game and know they are playing for something.

Lastly, we are all cognizant of the soft bigotry that expects women and especially little girls, to be dainty and submissive; I wholeheartedly reject such drivel. My overarching goal is develop ladies who are confident and fearless, who will stand up for their beliefs and challenge the status quo. Girls who will kick ass and take names on the field, off the field and throughout their lives. I want these girls to be winners in the game of life. Who’s with me?

Go Green Death!

You can guess what happened next: Parents went berzerk and complained to league officials. League officials jumped on Kinahan. And soon, Kinahan was sending out his resignation letter. The entire uproar made the Quincy Patriot Ledger, complete with website reprints of Kinahan's original emails.

Now, maybe this guy is a total nutter who should never be allowed near another impressionable young mind. (My husband, upon reading the emails, came away with that exact sense.) But I'm thinking: If Kinahan's actual behavior were a problem, you'd assume the parents of past players would have had the league boot him already. And if this letter was indeed the long-awaited opportunity to can a guy no one liked anyway, hat's off to everyone involved. That said, if Kinahan's only sin was getting carried away trying to give parents a chuckle while making some admittedly impolitic points--many American kids are treated too preciously; mini-superstars should not be catered to; for far, far too many years girls were foolishly discouraged from being competitive; blue slushies are for winners--then I find his departure a little sad. 

For understandable reasons, parenthood has a deleterious affect on a person's sense of humor, mine most definitely included. (This is why I value those, like Michael Lewis, who can eloquently mock their own decline into hysteria, paranoia, and general wussiness.) But while protecting our offspring, we also want to avoid turning them into fragile, coddled, germ-, dirt-, and blood-phobic, humorless neurotics. So while I can see objecting to Kinahan's gonzo missive, I have to hope parents--or at least league officials--did a tad more digging before showing him the door. Because, I gotta say, I'm with him on much of the underlying message.   

Go Green Death!

--Michelle Cottle