One of my recent refereeing highlights was a U9 boys game on a nice Sunday evening – very different from the game that resulted in a red card for an eight year old boy.
These eight year old boys were still so innocent and happy. They clearly were very much looking forward to playing the beautiful game and couldn’t wait to get started.
It was difficult to get them to focus on the sign-in process. They were chatting excitedly about the soccer balls, their cleats, their jersey numbers (“I’m #6 like Xavi”…”I’m #10 like Messi”…”Look at my new shoes referee”…) and one of the boys even recognized the brand and model of my whistle and was excited to take a closer look (go figure!).
The game was competitive, some nice dribbles, nice shots, great saves, the coaches were positive, and the families cheered a lot.
One of the boys was happy to help me count the players on each team before kicking off the second half – I gave him a high-five and thanked him for his help.
It seemed that everyone had a great time.
But how long will this last? My concern is that many of these same boys are likely to lose this joy for the game over time because of what we as parents and coaches do to them during games, practices, and on the ride home.
Let’s hope for the best.