Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: Men behaving badly


If you want to see the worst in men go to children’s soccer. The minute their kid hits the pitch certain ‘grown’ men transform into testosterone-fuelled man-beasts obsessed with living out their failed sporting prowess through their poor kid.

I’m like, settle down dude. This is the Under-8s! Clearly grown is a loose term, and I also want to clarify the use of certain here, because there is definitely a ‘type’. There are plenty of well-adjusted men in attendance who seem to have made peace with their masculinity and don’t need to live their failed potential through the skinny legs of a six-year old.

I’m over it. My eldest is 21. She started playing soccer when she was six. All my kids play so I have had to tolerate these masochistic displays of blood-curdling competitive angst for 16 years. We’ve all seen them: the fuckwit dads. The ones that stand there yelling at a bunch of kids who’ve only just managed to wipe their own bums by themselves. (The kids, not the dads, although I do wonder.) ‘Run Run, Kick it Kick it. Get back, Kye.’ The kid is always called something like Kye.

There is already a coach on the field, but dickhead dad feels the need to confuse the kids even more with a brand-new set of instructions, yelled at fever pitch to a bunch of frightened and confused kiddies. Imagine what it feels like to have your dad standing their screaming at you and your team for the entire game. It’s embarrassing. And it must feel like a lot of pressure when you’re flat out remembering which way you are supposed to be kicking the ball in the first place.

If you know anything about how kids learn, you’ll realise that the surest way to affect their confidence is to give them too many instructions. And then scream at them. Some people might call it ‘getting involved’. Or even ‘being supportive’. But I’d say its just yelling in the direction of kids for your own personal enjoyment. Sure, Dickhead Dad is no longer allowed to sledge the other players (although I have heard that as well) so instead they shout ‘helpful’ instructions. You want to yell at kids on the field? Become a coach. If you’re not a coach, apart from cheering and clapping, then shut up. Cut some oranges. It happened this morning, at my seven-year-old daughter’s soccer game. Let’s call this bloke Mr Enthusiastic. For those not aware of the many rules that govern parental conduct at children’s sporting activities, one of them states that parents have to be on the sidelines at a reasonable distance from the pitch. This morning a group of parents assembled behind their goalie, with Mr Enthusiastic front and centre yelling at his kid’s team. That meant that our team was facing the opposing team’s parents. By the second half my 15-year-old son, the coach of our side (and a National League player) asked Mr Enthusiastic to move. Of course men like Mr Enthusiastic don’t generally listen to 15-year-old boys. So he stayed. My son is passionate about the game and has had the conduct rules drummed into him by his coaches. It’s a shame when adults choose to ignore them.

So Mandy Nolan marches over to have a friendly conversation with Mr Enthusiastic. I ask Mr Enthusiastic to move from behind the goal and to take up position on the sidelines. Mr Enthusiastic doesn’t like it. I imagine it is embarrassing getting stick from a woman in front of the other parents, so perhaps he doesn’t respond in the most appropriate way. He says, ‘I’m not yelling at your team, I’m yelling at ours’. I say, ‘It’s intimidating for the kids’. Then big grown-up Mr Enthusiastic says, ‘It’s intimidating when two of you come over here and ask me to move!’ Fail. That was the wrong response. The correct response was, ‘Oh, I’m sorry. I get a bit over-excited. I didn’t realise.’ And then move. But he doesn’t. He’s defensive. Then I say, ‘It’s a code of conduct to protect the kids’. Should I even have to explain that? He’s standing yelling at his kid’s team, which btw is all boys, in the direction of ours, which is almost entirely composed of little girls. Is it so hard for an adult to realise that standing with one hand on the goalpost yelling might be perceived as intimidating when a little girl is doing her best to get through some boys and shoot for goal? How can adults be so invested in their kids’ winning? If you’re that hung up on the game then join a team yourself, and maybe your kid can come and yell at you.

6 responses to “Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: Men behaving badly”

  1. phoebe havyatt says:

    I found myself drawn to watch a young adults match a while back, and was appalled to hear a man on the stand in his late 30’s shouting out “take your skirt off”, ” stop being a girl’ ,etc to an opposing team player. I gave him a piece of my mind -the bit that tells me it’s not ok to be sexist anymore, and thankfully he shut up as long as I stayed. How sad that this man probably has teenage children. I’d thought racism and sexism were banned form sporting matches these days.

  2. Moyra says:

    Good on you Mandy. It’s the same at netball only it’s the mums. Why do parents have to scream at their children during sport? It’s bullying, plain and simple.

  3. M. Salmon says:

    Dear Mandy,

    Whilst 100% in agreement with you about parents, of any gender, confusing junior soccer with the Premier League (hint, juniors is NOT the one with hundreds of millions of pounds and the careers of thousands of people at stake), could I trouble you to be less free with the piscean pejoratives on the WWW in the future? Spent part of the weekend fielding calls about my poor behaviour at a soccer match that I wasn’t at.

    Thanks and cheers

  4. Trish says:

    hahahaha i coached my daughter’s soccer team when she was in high school and I have to say it was one of the most rewarding, fun, and ‘bestest things in the world’ that i’ve ever done.
    I saw a lot of Mr & Mrs Enthusiastic during that time. I still had fun though.
    I yelled a lot, so did a lot of other parents, but we thought it was encouraging them – it was probably just yelling! LOL fun fun fun.
    Thanks for this Mandy, enjoyed it!

  5. Rose G says:

    Hey Mandy
    I was there witnessing the confrontation and I’m not sure you’ve captured the event in an unbiased way. Not Mr Enthuasatic’s wife or friend, but as a mother and side watching parent, I was slightly amused by your account – which seems hyperbolic in description. I don’t disagree that children are there to play and learn with supportive coaches and parents. This is a fundamental of sport. That said – you yourself (and another male parent – I’m assuming) didn’t seem so polite in the way you handled the other parent. So be careful how you use your media connections to make a point. I think you’re taking liberties with your journalistic personality. Fact is that the other parent was in fact a coach. I had the decency to actually ask and clarify before I made any judgments. What a pity that you’ve turned the event into a feminist rant against men – I have a wonderful bunch of male friends, including my own coaching husband, and none of them fit your generalised description.

  6. Matt from Lennox says:

    Great story Mandy, As a father of two boys who play rugby league, I am continually appalled by some parents’ behaviour – and it rubs off onto kids as well. This year I had a verbal altercation with an opposition coach – all within earshot of two very fired teams on the field. We were both in the wrong. It could have been ugly, it was that serious. It certainly wasn’t my finest moment but what followed was a good lesson. Our paths crossed at the kids rep training the very next morning and we shook hands and apologised right in front of all the juniors. I think this had an impact because the animosity between the two teams settled down for the remainder of the year. Parents need to remember that all kids really want to do is run around and have fun with their friends. It’s as simple as that.

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Some of The Echo’s editorial team: journalists Paul Bibby and Aslan Shand, editor Hans Lovejoy, photographer Jeff Dawson and Mandy Nolan

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