There’s a break late in the game. The opposition winger is deep in your team’s half. Your left-back has tracked back and has the winger in his sights. Your centre back is heading in the same direction. The rest of the outfield players are distant, with one exception: an opposition striker is making rapid progress into your penalty area.
I’ve described my approach to following my kids’ sporting ventures: the art of supporting, while not supporting. Bellowing at the players has no part in this policy. But there’s policy and there’s practice.
The game is close, a 2-1 advantage to your team. A cross from the winger will find the striker with just the keeper between him and the winning goal, unless your centre back stops his run towards the corner flag and marks the striker lurking behind him.
Junior athletes learn best from experience. A reliance on instruction from coaches can create a dependence that stunts players’ development. The importance of not getting caught upfield and of being aware of opponents making runs are important lessons.
The winger stops, looks up and sees his teammate enter the penalty area. Your defenders have their eyes focused on the ball – your keeper does, too.
The match is a semi-final. Victory would take your team to a final at a semi-pro ground. What a learning experience that would be. Or the match could be a relegation decider. A draw would send your team down to a division where most of the opposition are of a standard that wouldn’t stretch your team – a whole season of marking time.
Your team’s coach has seen the threat. But he doesn’t shout and the wind whipping across the pitch would carry his voice away from the centre back who’s continuing his run towards the winger, alongside the left back.
The centre back is your son. He takes defeat hard, getting upset and remaining down for the rest of the day if he thinks he’s had a bad game. You’ve also heard some of his teammates complaining about him after matches.
One shout from you and he could check his run, intercept the pass, save the game, get the team into the final (or escape relegation), earn the praise of his teammates.
What would you do?