Lower School soccer adds to Keystone experience

Sep 24 2021

Lower School soccer adds to Keystone experience

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”

2nd grade soccer team in 2019

“This feels so good!” “I’ve really missed this.” “We’re getting back to normal.” These were some of the parent comments at last Saturday morning’s Lower School soccer games. For the first time in two years, we were able to reconvene on the sidelines and cheer on the younger Cobras as they played against students from other schools. It was great to be together again.

The Saturday morning games felt all the more special by the sheer number of Keystone children playing. We inaugurated interscholastic sports in the Lower School in 2019 with one second grade soccer team. That pilot program proved successful in a variety of ways. (As a bonus, the Keystone team even won all their games.) The team capped the season by carrying the San Antonio Football Club (SAFC) flag before a game and then cheering on the SAFC players in an exciting contest.

Last year, there was no league, due to COVID restrictions, so we weren’t sure how many children would be interested when play resumed. This year, the response amazed us. More than 40 children turned out for practice under the direction of Coach Matt Schultze and Head of Lower School (and Coach) Mallory Matthews. The single team from two years ago has doubled into a second grade team and a combined third/fourth grade team.

Seeing Keystone parents cheering brought back memories of the years my wife and I attended our younger son’s competitions, whether he was playing basketball, lacrosse, or rugby. (We probably cringed as much as cheered during the rugby matches and hoped that all the money we spent on braces and the orthodontist wouldn’t go to waste.)

Being a sports parent can be complicated. We want our children to learn the valuable lessons that playing on a team can teach-how to be a good teammate and support others, practice good sportsmanship, demonstrate resilience, and give it their all. And, we hope our children will have fun while exercising and stretching themselves.

We can probably all recount times when parents on the sidelines enjoyed the game, visited with friends, and gave positive feedback. Unfortunately, we can possibly also recall the times we witnessed parents yelling at children, screaming at officials, and sometimes mixing it up with parents on the opposing team. As a school administrator and a sports fan, I have had to escort parents out of the gym after they received technical fouls, or inform parents that they were no longer allowed to come to games. Fortunately, I have never had to do this at Keystone.

So, how do we strike a balance between encouraging our children during games and not going overboard? A 2018 article from The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry called “Sports and Children” gives some helpful hints. It begins by stressing the benefits for children playing sports. “Sports help children develop physical skills, get exercise, make friends, have fun, learn teamwork, learn to play fair, and improve self-esteem.”

The authors proceed to offer seven tips for effective sports parenting:

  • providing emotional support and positive feedback
  • attending some games and talking about them afterward
  • having realistic expectations for your child
  • learning about the sport and supporting your child’s involvement
  • encouraging your child to talk with you about their experiences with the coach and other team members
  • teaching your child to handle disappointments about losing by praising their efforts to compete and improve athletic skills
  • modeling respectful spectator behavior

The article also recommends that parents talk with children when they observe poor sportsmanship and discuss alternative ways that players could have handled the situation. We can acknowledge the heat of competition, but also emphasize the importance of playing with integrity and emotional self-control.

If parents have concerns about coaching, they should discuss them directly with the coaches rather than airing their grievances publicly or to their children. The coaches work long and hard to create a supporting environment for the players and want the best for all involved.

If we view the courts and fields of play as an extension of the classroom, we understand that there are ups and downs along the way as children learn to be good team players, practice sportsmanship, enjoy competition, and have fun.

After the first round of games last Saturday, our sweaty and smiling young Cobras looked like they’re on their way. When we asked about their experience, they all said they had a blast. After a year and half of soccer fields being vacant and children stuck indoors, it felt really good to be back. Go Cobras!

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