Keeping the fun in the games
Last week we ran a picture of smiling soccer players congratulating each other after a Downtown Soccer League game. That is our image of the league a place where coaches work hard to emphasize fun, sportsmanship and teamwork over competition. Soccer and Little League help knit this community together which is why we devote so much space and energy to highlighting it. However, in two recent incidents, one in the D.S.L. and one in the Downtown United Soccer Club, parents and kids have crossed the line into disturbing and inappropriate behavior.
Two weeks ago, a D.S.L. player, instead of a high-five, punched his opponent in the nose after the game. This followed a game in which parents shouted and threatened each other during the game.
In the latest incident, a DUSC father allegedly struck or flung a 14-year-old to the ground during a game played without an official referee. The father was arrested by police, and led away from Pier 40 in handcuffs.
One must acknowledge that DUSC and D.S.L. are doing a terrific job. The vast majority of games are played with great sportsmanship. Volunteer parent coaches log hours and hours of time to help the kids learn the games and reach their potential.
Don Schuck, D.S.L. president, wisely tightened the rules about parent behavior immediately after the punching incident. He and the leagues board also suspended the player who threw the punch, as well as two fathers. They also suspended the player who was punched, leaving hundreds of families to wonder whether a blame the victim approach was taken. There are extremely sensitive privacy issues involved, but the league should either make it clear that they did not suspend a player for getting punched or they should acknowledge a mistake.
And as officials and coaches in both leagues start a well-earned off-season they should begin to think of ways to prevent any incidents next year. Theres no doubt firm referees are needed to keep the games and more importantly the parents in line. Parents must also be role models. While its great to see moms and dads on the sidelines, their presence can put pressure on the kids to perform and if they get too out of line, they spoil the game for everyone.
Bottom line: these are games and are supposed to be fun.
We dont want to see judges and lawyers figure out whether the Hudson River Park Trust is on solid legal ground with their recent heavy-handed tactics against the owners of the historic Yankee Ferry docked near Pier 25. We know the Trust is on extremely shaky moral ground.
Four days after giving the owners the combination to the piers locks, they secretly changed the combination, trapping one of the owners on the pier in an effort to smoke them out as well as limit access to the historic vessel in an emergency. The Trust admits there is space right now for the Yankee on Pier 40s north side. Thats where the ship should be allowed to go so that the Pier 25 park construction can begin. Once on Pier 40, the Trust and owners will have time to find the best place for the ship to be for three years and to ensure the owners increase the publics access to this beautiful vessel.