It’s not the Stanley Cup.

Cam was refereeing youth lacrosse games all day yesterday. He’s learning a lot from this experience, I think- sometimes all goes well and it’s a civilized game, and other times it doesn’t go as well and he has to deal with angry players or coaches or parents. He gets the opportunity to develop his already-impressive people skills, is what I tell myself when someone on the sidelines yells, “THAT WAS A TRIP!!!!!!!” (Otherwise I might walk over to that parent and say something like, “That’s my son, and he is doing his best to keep your player safe on the field. So I would appreciate it if you would gain some perspective and quit screaming like an asshole.” Also in one case yesterday I might have added, “And put out that cigarette.”) But most of the time, it’s fine. Parents and coaches and players are just there to watch the kids play. One exception from yesterday stands out for me, though, and I’m still uncomfortable about it.

At Cam’s last game of the day- with a group of 10-11 year olds- one of the coaches was loud and blustery. This doesn’t bother me; in fact, at first I laughed a little at his, “Do you guys realize you’re playing a game right now?” As the game went on and his team racked up more and more points, winning handily, his angry behavior only increased. “LAZY!! YOU’RE LAZY!!!!! WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE?!” he screamed when the other team scored their first goal. One of his players slipped and lost the ball; he yelled, “GET OFF THE FIELD!!” and the player subbed out, guilty of slipping on the wet grass. When the halftime whistle blew he screamed, “GET OVER HERE RIGHT NOW!!” The boys trudged to the sidelines, where I could occasionally hear his angry tones from where I stood. He went on and on, berating and belittling the boys as the halftime clock ticked on. One of the parents nearby said mildly, “I don’t think my son would be allowed to play for this guy.”

At that point, this coach’s team was winning by 4 goals.

During the second half, one of their players slid in the mud and hurt himself. Cam and the other ref stopped play and spoke to him for a second, and then both referees walked him toward the sidelines. Cam had his arm around the boy’s shoulders, which is very unusual. The coach stomped onto the field and met them before they could get to the sidelines. The adult referee paired with Cam said something to the coach, and he responded to the boy: “SUCK IT UP!” They had another few moments of conversation, and then the coach steered the kid right back into place, and play continued.

Then I understood: Cam had his arm around the player because the boy was afraid to tell his coach he was hurt. This poor kid knew he would not be allowed to leave the field.

They won the game by something like 8 goals. I guess you’d call it a success.

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