06
Jun
14

Macho Macho Man

via Nantucket-Bucket.com

So we’re wrapping up our inaugural lacrosse season here in New Jersey and while there have been some frustrations with communications, I’d say it’s gone well.

Alpha Tween has been playing excellently as a goalie—the most thankless job on the field it seems—and his coach has been very excited saying “He’s making saves on pure athleticism! Wait until he has technique!”

Which is a nice compliment, although it made me chuckle. It’s like saying “hey you’re really good with no idea what you’re doing!” It happens to be true as well, but it’s funny.

The Professor has been enjoying himself as well, and I’ve really seen a lot of hard work from him to improve.

Last night was the last official games for both and in the cases of both games, it got a bit physical and chippy towards the end. People likely don’t realize it, but lacrosse can be a tough, violent game at any level. And the more tired people get, the more frustrated and the more they use their sticks to hit and not control the ball.

At one point late during The Professor’s game, one of the kids got hurt—I can’t quite recall the circumstance—and was laying on the grass as coaches tended to him and made sure he was OK.

My wife—football mom that she is—yelled for the kids to “take a knee” as that’s what we do in Pop Warner when someone is hurt. You kneel down out of respect for the guy hurt and you clap when he gets up. This has been taught to Alpha since he started in football back in New York, and when my wife coached soccer last fall, she drilled it into the kids on her team as well.

It’s just good manners. I’ve never given it a second thought—all the other teams in our Pop Warner league do it and as a coach, I just figured everyone else did it.

Apparently not.

What I didn’t hear, but my wife did, was the gentleman to our left who muttered, “Why is it always a woman who shouts that?”

image via USAFootball.com

Now, maybe he was wondering “why don’t more men do that?” or maybe he was wondering “why women are so soft?”—I can’t say. When my wife relayed it later it definitely sounded as if she felt it was the latter.

I had echoed her shouts the first time, so it seems like an odd comment.

When the next kid went down a quarter or so later, she didn’t say anything.

I noticed no kid knelt down and no parent or coach said anything to motivate that.

I didn’t say anything, though I almost did—but it’s hard to be the lone voice. My wife didn’t say anything, which I found odd at the time, but now makes sense.

She didn’t want to be “that woman.”

I’m saddened for a couple of reasons. That she felt she couldn’t show compassion for a kid who was hurt (on our own team the

second time). That she felt like her consideration was marginalized because of her gender. That clearly the whole “kneeling down thing” isn’t widespread among all teams and sports in our town. That some guy (who for other reasons struck me as nobody I want to have a beer with anyway) felt the need to comment on how “it’s always a woman.”

There’s a lot to unpack here.

First, comforting a hurt kid is a human thing, not a woman’s thing. If you’re a dad and you think otherwise, I’m going to go ahead and suggest you rethink what being a dad means.

That doesn’t mean you coddle or throw your child in a bubble. It means you show compassion. Yeah, yeah, men aren’t supposed to do that, I get it, but you and I both know that’s crap. It’s one thing to roll your eyes when you or someone’s kid is whining for a new toy, it’s quite another when someone is hurt.

image via PrincipalsPage.com

This also gets into the whole macho aspect of sports. This is where I used to type “machismo of football” but it’s all sports, especially on boy’s/men’s sports. All athletes are taught to play through pain—it’s part of the game and there is something to be said for learning to fight through it. To fight through adversity and determine whether what you are facing (be it a sprained ankle or difficult math assignment or being overlooked at work for a promotion) and how serious it is.

And more importantly whether it should stop you, and how to keep it from doing so.

But one thing the organization I coach football for is big on is teaching the difference between being hurt and being injured—and being OK with admitting when you’re injured and can’t go on.

I hate when parents—and this goes for both genders, because I’ve seen it from men and women—tell boys to “be a man.” I mean, listen, there are times to tell your kids “oh grow up” and times to point out that what they have is a bruise not a broken leg and shouldn’t stop them from doing what they’re doing.  But when a kid is laying on the turf, not moving—and maybe I’m nuts—that’s probably not the time.

It irks me when parents comment like this dad did. It irks me that he saw good sportsmanship as a “woman’s thing” instead of good sportsmanship. It angers me that my wife felt like she couldn’t encourage that sportsmanship because she was being judged. And it frustrates me that I didn’t pick up on it and I was just as silent.

The idea that we shouldn’t be compassionate on the field or concerned when a player on any team gets hurt and is down on the field is garbage and I don’t care what gender you are. We’re supposed to be teaching sportsmanship as much as anything else and clearly, that’s not on everyone’s agenda.

image via PackersHistory.net

And here’s the thing—compassion for an injured player isn’t a woman’s thing. It’s a human thing. You want your son to “be a man?” You teach him that even when it’s your opponent on the ground, you treat it as if he’s on your team, you treat him with respect and you hope he gets up. You kneel, or stand silent or whatever it is your team does and you clap when he gets up. You play with passion and aggression, but fairness as well.

These things are not mutually exclusive. I cover the NFL and while some of these guys truly don’t like each other, the majority of the players in the NFL are friendly with each other even right after a game. And what do you see them do when someone is badly hurt?

They kneel. They pray. They worry about someone on the other team as well as on their own.

That’s being a man in my book.

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