(Image Courtesy of Real Balance Wellness)
Soccer, youth travel soccer to be specific, now fills most of our days. Practices fill the week. Games fill the weekend.
Each week we are surrounded by increased skills, increased playing ability, and an increased level of teamwork.
Each week something else has also increased: the negativity of the spectators.
Negativity creeps in, when something doesn’t go the right way. At first negativity is hard to notice, and it may begin as disappointment.
The collective “OH NO, TOO BAD” when a goal is missed, turns into “UGH.”
The “GOOD TRY” becomes “WHY DIDN’T YOU MAKE THAT PLAY.”
About a week ago, the negativity became so loud during the game that it made my emotional glass cloudy. For hours after that game, I had the kind of emotional hangover that lasted for more than a few hours.
At the next day’s game, we set up early and made a declaration:
“This area right here (pointing to the imaginary large circle surrounding our folding chairs) is a declared Optimism Zone. If you feel the need to be negative, you need to go someplace else.”
For the first few minutes of the game we had to remind others a few times.
“As a reminder, you are in the Optimism Zone, all statements and comments should reflect that, if not, you should find another area to sit.”
The game, the comments, and our experience improved dramatically. We were returning to positive comments, and encouraging remarks.
The original negativity comes partly from how much these parents, friends, and family care about the players and how much they want them to succeed, and to win.
What began as coaching, became tearing down. What began as cheering, became criticism. Once negativity becomes the dominant way to express emotions, it slowly becomes the only channel.
Our attitudes and emotional state are contagious.
Perhaps we could all use an Optimism Zone to recalibrate our interactions.