Sunday afternoon I traveled about 4 miles to the local soccer field to watch my daughter’s team play. Don’t ask about the results, let’s just say that the outcome was not pretty. In fact, the result was pretty dismal. But even though the girls lost, I was interested in the reactions of the players and the spectators.
First, let me talk about the spectators. Most of the folks watching the game were the parents and siblings of the players. Let’s face it, soccer played by 14-year old girls is not a big draw…especially on a glorious Sunday during March Madness. The game was fairly even through the first 15 minutes, but then there was a critical mistake by our team’s defense. Despite a valiant effort by our goalkeeper the Red Hots scored. The floodgates were opened and there was no closing them.
Ball after ball entered the net, and the enthusiasm of the players decreased dramatically. Frankly, the Strikers were going to lose the game, and everyone on or at the field knew it. The girls stopped hustling. The game officials seemed to decide that this game just needed to be over and stopped making even obvious calls. The opposing team even celebrated goals less once a second, and then a third goal had been scored.
But the parents still cheered.
The girls’ performance was dismal, but the enthusiasm shown by some of the parents was genuine. And even though the players made bad decisions on the field, didn’t do their best, and frankly didn’t even care whether they were giving their best, the parents shouted and cheered. I heard words like “Great Play!” and “Super.” And I scratched my head. I’ve been watching soccer for 40 years, and I didn’t see any of the things that the parents were shouting about. I’ve refereed Division I soccer for the NCAA, and I was really puzzled as to what the enthusiasm was all about.
I began to think more about the reaction of the parents than about the performance of players, coaches, or officials. They were all just going through the motions, but the parents were actually excited about their daughters playing soccer. Admittedly, some of the the excitement turned to vitriol directed at the officials, but the parents were actively involved.
The girls mad a great comeback. I wish that I could tell you that they won the game, but it was actually the worst defeat that the team has suffered in the two years my daughter has played for the Strikers. But the parents were supportive at the end of the game. There were hugs, and compliments for things that had been done well, and support for girls who were sad about the outcome.
I began to think about the reactions of parents who listen to their music students have a bad practice. It might be a bad attitude. It might be less than perfect performance. It might be inattention. All of those things were evidenced on the field, but I heard almost none of those things referenced by the parents when the player was within earshot . . . at least none of it was directed toward the players. I’m quite certain that the attitude would have been substantially different after the violin practice than after a less than satisfactory soccer game. I know that I was not always as enthusiastic and supportive during and immediately after my daughter’s bad violin practice as I was at her bad soccer game. Why the disparity?
Now before you get the wrong idea, I am not about to tell you to act enthusiastic even when you don’t feel that way. I’ve heard one Suzuki teacher indicate that “spontaneous” enthusiastic applause was expected after each performance of a piece . . . even during practice . . . even if the performance was mediocre at best. And parents were chastised that their spontaneous applause did not occur often enough or with enough vigor. I’m not talking about that sort of disingenuous behavior. I’m simply questioning why parents become so vehemently supportive with sports, even when things go wrong, and show such a half-hearted response with music. Why the positive attitude with athletics practice and the negative attitude with music rehearsal? (And remember, I’m questioning my own behavior regarding this as well! There’s certainly no accusatory inference here that I don’t direct at myself.)
This one’s gonna have me scratching my head for a while.
Remember, When We Talk About Violin
The Verb We Use Is Play