My 12-year-old son plays soccer and at a recent practice I made two comments to the goalkeeper about mistakes he was making. I was wearing ear buds at the time and apparently I was louder than I would ordinarily have been. I said: “You should roll the ball out with more vigour and it won’t be picked off." And after several went through his hands into the net: “You should tip those over the bar.” Fairly innocuous but, true, totally unsolicited. The reason I spoke to him was he was frustrated with his play and was pounding the turf and punching the posts, so I thought I could help him. And I’ve coached this team, though I do not know this boy. But the boy didn’t appreciate my comments and told me to stop talking to him. The following day at their game I offered the parents an apology and the mom accepted but I felt some lingering resentment then and still do almost one month later. I get the cold shoulder: no eye contact, smiles or greetings. The mom also is the club co-ordinator and when the soccer kits were given out, all I got was a T-shirt with no socks or shorts and a perfunctory explanation. I now feel tense going to watch my boy practise and play and can’t imagine how this can go on. Any advice?
I scarcely know where to begin.
First of all, take your ear buds out of your ears, bud, when you’re talking to people. I do not understand this modern phenomenon of leaving them in but to me it seems the height of rudeness.
So does it mean you’re barking out your unsolicited advice to this kid while listening to music?
Especially since you approached the kid, not the other way around.
Second, unsolicited is the lowest form of advice. Maybe teachers and parents can get away with it. But some random, total stranger? I would use this as a teaching moment and never, ever try to foist your counsel on anyone ever again unless they ask you for it.
I don’t even like unsolicited comments. It so happens I wear shorts well into the fall. “Oh-ho-ho shorts in October eh?” some total stranger on the street will say, snapping me out of whatever reverie I might have been enjoying. “You’re quite eccentric!”
I know they mean no harm, but it’s annoying. It makes me want to stop and say: “So are we trading unsolicited observations here? Because I could offer a few about you.”
(Of course I don’t.)
And your target and timing couldn’t possibly have been worse.
To be a goaltender, as I know from having a hockey-goalie son, is a highly emotional and pressure-filled thing to be. You feel the entire weight of the game’s outcome on your shoulders – and know your teammates kind of feel the same way.
Your team wins and you made some great saves? You’re a hero. Your team loses and you let in some easy ones? They can’t even look you in the eyes. I’ve seen it many times. I’ve also seen my son let in an easy one, costing his team the game and subsequently throw himself face-down on the ice and weep.
And just as this soccer kid is stomping around, pounding the posts and berating himself for his mistakes, that’s when you come up to him and loudly tell him what you think he’s doing wrong?
Unwise. I’m surprised the kid didn’t tell you off in stronger language. And I’m not surprised the mom is giving you the cold shoulder and stiffed you on the shorts and socks.
What to do going forward? Well, I know from bitter experience what it’s like having someone who hardly knows you form a dislike for you. It can really prey on your mind.
But I wouldn’t keep trying to reapproach them. Give them a wide berth for a while, be kind and friendly if you do encounter them, and see if the passage of time solves it, soothes it and acts as a balm.
After all, I know I’ve been giving you a hard time, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty minor and obviously well-intentioned infraction. Maybe they’ll come around to seeing that.
If not, well, something I learned a long time ago: Not everyone can like you. You might just have to learn to live with their frostiness.
Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.
Live your best. We have a daily Life & Arts newsletter, providing you with our latest stories on health, travel, food and culture. Sign up today.