Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cage Fighting Mama

I read a great little inspiring article about a heavyweight cage fighter down on his luck. Patrick Berry was living on rice and ketchup before the cage fight that landed him a $120,000 prize. He credits his win to in no small part his being “hungry” –figuratively and literally. So, this got me thinking. I’m betting every motivated mother has a short list (ok, maybe a long one) of people they would love to beat the crap out of for a nice cash infusion. There’s the brat who told my son his cold sore made him look like a leper --that brought him to tears. There’s the parent who told my verbally advanced child that he was a bad influence on her pristine kid. There’s the “concerned” neighbor who called Animal Control when my dog jumped the fence. Not to mention the soccer coach who ostracized my son Ryan and made him feel like a total loser for the soccer season. In fact, I’d do the Knockout of the Night for free when it comes to Ryan’s soccer “coach.”

I put the word coach in quotes because this guy doesn’t deserve the title. He’s just a bad one-time bully. We put Ryan in a recreation league so he could have some fun and get some exercise. We had no Beckham-like illusions (I’m as likely to look like Victoria Beckham as Ryan is to play soccer like her hubby.) The first day of practice we had a bad feeling. The coach, who was no more than 25, decided to start things off with a nice game of keep away --him against all the kids. He whooped their 9-year old butts and clearly felt the better man for it. He followed that up with a nice race around the field so he could see who his fastest runners were, separating the men from the boys right off the bat. So much for teamwork; it was downhill from there. And Ryan hated it. So after way too many tears and being convinced that the experience was not an overall positive one, we pulled Ryan from soccer. The “coach” caught wind of our decision and sent me an email.

From: K (Asshole Coach Name Withheld)

Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 6:52 PM

To: ellenpifer@comcast.net

Subject: Ryan

Hello Ellen,
May I ask why you pulled Ryan from soccer? Anytime a boy quits I wonder what I could have done to make it a better experience for him. Is there anything you could suggest to either myself or my co-coach in the future?

Thanks and Best wishes,

K (aka Asshole Coach Name Withheld)

So, I wrote back and I was very careful to NOT point fingers or give ANY constructive criticism because my instincts told me his request was like his coaching –insincere.

From: ellenpifer@comcast.net

To: (Asshole Coach Name Withheld)

Subject: RE: Ryan
Date: Tue, 3 Nov 2009 08:36:12 -0800

To be honest, Ryan's experience has not be a positive one. This was not his first soccer experience. He participated in a league back in Philly and then in the department of recreation league here in Los Gatos. Both these experiences were good ones and Ryan was a contributing member of the team. But for some reason, Ryan really never felt a part of your team. He seemed to have a hard time understanding the various positions and where he should be playing. While other kids seemed to aggressively attack the ball, Ryan avoided it. We tried to encourage him and assure him the game was for exercise and fun. It was more about working as a team than winning. But, that wasn't the message he was getting. And when he would run off the field he would ask us hoping it was almost over "How much longer?" When we would tell him its time for practice he would give us a hard time about going. He didn't connect with any of the other kids. Altogether, it just has not been a positive experience for our son. Ironically, he really enjoys playing soccer with his Dad and brothers. We signed him up to help him build confidence and we are pulling him out because it’s doing just the opposite.

And HERE is what I got in response.

From: (Asshole Coach Name Withheld)

Sent: Tuesday, November 03, 2009 10:27 AM

To: ellenpifer@comcast.net

Subject: RE: Ryan

Ellen it seems all of your main concersn could have been simply addressed by bringing Ryan to practice with a good attitude. To be totally honest I did not appreciate the way your husband or you treated us and the fact that you held Ryan out of practices is the reason he never felt part of the team. Those kids spent three days a week with each other and grew together. You can't just show up on game day and expect magic to happen. I could go on, but in the future bring your kid to practice and put a smile on your face. The season isn't over, the next 2 weeks as a reward to the kids we are playing any game they want to play. Ryan is still welcome, but don't even attempt to show up to another game without bringing him to practice first.

Parenting often feels like Cage Fighting. Many days we are locked in the cage and left to use everything at our disposal to fight for our kids. We kick, punch, choke, bite and use every tool at our disposal to get them a good education, have them treated lovingly, ensure they feel good about themselves and grow into well adjusted, happy, adults. Some days it feels like a team effort but other days you really feel like the odds are against you. And those days, it sure would be nice to beat the crap out of someone and get $120,000 for it!

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