This team brought a bazooka to a knife fight.
I wouldn't have been too bothered by the whole thing except for the fact that the referee was young and inexperienced and refused to blow his whistle. See that little plastic thing in your hand? Use it. Please.
Now, any of you that know me know I encourage and appreciate a good, tough, physical match ... as long as it's fair. Not all of the fouls that were committed on the field were dirty, but there were certainly some elbows in the back, shoves from behind, and pretty blatant tripping. I'm all for letting play go on, but to me anything from behind is careless and dangerous and should be an immediate call.
I told one of my girls that if she was going to get pushed around and the ref wasn't going to call it, that she should push back. The referee didn't like that too much. I kept my mouth shut after that. Still, the girl who I said that to ended up scoring a great goal towards the end of the game, and I was THRILLED for her since she's one of the players who has really improved in leaps and bounds since the beginning of the season.
After the game was over one of the girls said 'I'm not shaking the referee's hand'. That was not okay. I told her that she would shake the referee's hand and I never wanted to hear her say anything like that ever again. I made her cry. Sorry, kiddo, but you deserved getting that lecture. The parent agreed with me, so all remained well in my camp.
Of course, the next morning I got an e-mail from goal-scorers dad saying that his kid was angry about the other team, and was very sore with lots of bruises. The uber competitive side of me says "IF YOU'RE NOT BLEEDING, BRUISED AND EXHAUSTED AFTER THE GAME YOU AREN'T PLAYING HARD ENOUGH!" But then I remember these girls are only 11. I take a deep breath.
The thing that bothered me was that the parent in question said "I told her to run to the referee and stand in his face to complain about it next time she is elbowed or kicked from behind. I fear she is only going to hold back for so long before she deliberately hurts the other girls back."
Umm.. please do not tell your child to stand in the referee's face and complain. That is only reaching them that it's okay to disrespect officials and people in charge. Referees are not perfect, either.
All of these girls are good players and can hold their own on the field, but they have to learn that if you're getting pushed around you have to drop your shoulder and push back. I'm not talking about committing deliberate fouls, I'm talking about stepping up to the intensity of the game you are playing. That team played tough, physical soccer, something that our girls haven't seen yet. There was definitely a lesson to be learned about how physical these girls need to be in order to be competitive. I want my players to play with passion, but I also expect them to be classy, fair and respectful of their teammates, coaches, officials and their opponents.
It was a bit of a disappointing game for me, and despite the positive things I've seen in the girls during our time together, it's hard not to get discouraged.