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Skip: You guys. You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Larry!

Larry: Lollygaggers!

Skip: Lollygaggers. (Bull Durham)

Having now spent two years listening to parents encourage, admonish, and coach their kids from the sidelines, I’ve developed some pretty strong feelings about the role of parents in youth sports. Specifically, I think it’s important for parents to let the coaches do the coaching and limit their role to support.

There are a few reasons for this. First, I—the person sitting next to you—do not need to have someone yelling in my ear for 40 minutes of play. Secondly, the children need to be listening to their coaches and figuring things out for themselves. Thirdly, oftentimes what the parents are spewing out is either pointless—“kick the ball!”—or flat-out wrong—“boot it!”

You know how often I’ve heard a coach tell a kid to “boot it!”? Never.

On the other hand, there is something I wish parents would do more of, and that’s match their kids to the right sport. It seems these days that the vast majority of middle-class Americans sign their kids up for soccer at some point. Soccer has almost become the default team sport for parents nervous about head injuries.

This isn’t doing the kids any favors. For example, soccer is not a great place for the autistic child, as it relies so heavily on non-verbal communication and spacing. Still, I can understand how or why the parent of an autistic child would sign their kid up in a rec league and not understand all the hurdles involved.

But that’s an example of a situation complicated by a clinical diagnosis, and I came here to rant about something much simpler: Parents, don’t sign your kids up for soccer if they hate running.

At last weekend’s outdoor game, Simon’s team was thoroughly dismantled by the opposing side. The coach consoled our side by focusing on how much better the boys played in the second half than the first and how much better they are getting overall.

I wasn’t feeling that generous. I was mostly miffed that at least three players on Simon’s team seemingly had no get-up-and-go. To paraphrase the Bull Durham quote I stole, they lollygagged up the field to maintain possession, they lollygagged their way to space for passing, and they lollygagged their way to get back on defense. They were a team of lollygaggers.

I can understand how the non-aggressive child can grow into soccer. I can understand how the uncoordinated child can get better through soccer. I can understand how the kid who won’t pass will learn to share the ball more with age (though admittedly it ticks me off). But for the life of me I don’t understand why parents of kids who dislike running and/or the kids who dislike running themselves would pick a sport that largely involves running at speed with few interruptions.

If you don’t like running, this is not your sport! Try baseball. Try golf. Try curling. Just please, please, please get off the soccer field!

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