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Dad was model sports fan for his son

June 19, 2011
The Mining Journal

When it came to the Winneconne soccer dads of the Oshkosh Youth Soccer Club, my father, Jim, was unique.

See, for every mouthy player we had on the pitch - and there were a lot of us - there were two parents on the sidelines putting that player to shame with a voice twice as loud and three times as dirty. It didn't matter if you were an opposing coach, player or the teenage referee being paid pennies, you felt the wrath of the Winneconne soccer crowd.

My dad was not one of those parents, however, even if his son had his moments.

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I played soccer competitively for 10 years from the age of 6 - back in 1991 we were still keeping score and declaring champions in U6 soccer - until I got tired of dealing with complications from a broken ankle at the age of 16.

During that time, my father was what every parent should be on the sidelines and in the stands - encouraging. He may have been one of the loudest fathers at the park, but he always used that booming voice for good.

That was his "thing," so to speak among the fan base.

Other people's "things" are what makes me cringe at youth and high school sporting events today.

A couple parents thought they were the coaches of our soccer team and at one time they were soccer coaches before being relieved of their duties. Unfortunately they never got the hint and continued to voice their opinions to us from their lawn chairs.

A certain parent seemed to always target the official that day, believing the person with the whistle had it out for Winneconne teams that came into the Oshkosh league and won - even if the official that day was in fact a Winneconne native. It was the referees' fault our teams underachieved and fell one win short of a tournament or league title every year, not the players'.

Other parents felt the need to villainize the opposing coach for many times doing the same things our coach did - bark instructions to players and work the referees.

The real winners went after players on the opposing team from the first to last whistle, often labeling them as a dirty ball hog for the one time he or she didn't pass. Those parents could spot an elbow or trip that no one else could see, and don't bother telling them what a legal tackle is in soccer Mr. or Ms. Referee.

Like a call made by an official, if the play wasn't in my team's favor, it was against the rules.

As much as we tried to shrug off the immature behavior of our parents on the sidelines, and at times laugh at it, the crazies got to us. It started with one of my teammates telling his father to "shut up before we get another card." Soon that frustration was turned on the referees and opponents.

By the time my team reached high school, our parents' attitudes had fully rubbed off on us. As a football coach said in class one day, "Our soccer team has all the talent in the world, but you're all a bunch of head cases."

Maybe if more parents had been like my father, we would have won that first conference title, that first playoff game or booked that first trip to state for Winneconne soccer. Our reputation in OYSC could have been that of champions, not hotheads with attitudes.

Maybe my father was outspoken on the sidelines because he wasn't as knowledgeable about soccer as the other geniuses he sat next to. Or maybe it was because he knew his behavior would rub off on his son.

Whatever it was, I wish more parents then and now would be like him.

So to all the fathers out there who clap loud instead of boo, and whose signature chant is "Good job!" instead of "What a ball hog!" I wish you a happy Father's Day.

To the rest, think twice before you open your mouth, and a happy Father's Day as well.

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is



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