Monday, September 10, 2018

Life is a Bad Ref

With my girls playing club soccer in three different regions of the country, I can say I’ve just about seen it all when it comes to refereeing. The good. The bad. And the ugly. I’ve also become a keen observer of parent reactions, and I’m beginning to see how they don’t vary much from state to state.

I don’t know whether it’s because my girls are growing older and this isn’t my first rodeo with club sports, but in recent years I’m grasping the value of letting each team simply play their game—without parental interference. And that includes shouting insults at the ref.


Because the way I see it, life is a bad ref. Bad refs (with the exception of those who refuse to intervene when things get dangerous) can teach our kids. So what if a ref misses a hand ball or calls a corner kick a goal kick? You’d be surprised how my parents get up in arms about such calls.

I’ve leapt up from my chair before, furious at some of the calls (or lack of calls) I’ve witnessed. The best is when parents (or a coach) tick a ref off so badly that every calls he makes from that point on is skewed because of the verbal lashing he had to publicly endure.

My thinking when the ref makes a misjudgment . . . such is life. Play on. Play through it.

Play through.

I used to cringe every time my mom would tell me life was unfair, but as an adult I get that she was doing me a favor by telling me this. I didn’t grow up expecting special treatment or that I’d always be understood in every situation. Plenty of situations occur when there isn’t an opportunity to plead your case. Life makes all kinds of unfair calls. Death, disease, and ignorant cruelty to name a few.

We can’t always bark back at life. It doesn’t work like that. I’ve never seen a ref change his mind after a good yelling at. So much of living a peaceful, fulfilled life is understanding—really understanding—how to navigate through the things we cannot control. How to play through it. How to play our game despite what’s playing out all around us. Developing that kind of personal accountability is invaluable. We don’t go through life blaming others for our successes and failures. We take responsibility.

Sure, some games are called horribly. Been there. Seen that. I finally figured out that’s what gets some parents so enraged when they observe a bad call. They’re having to sit back while Life smacks their kid around. I say give the kid a chance to rise up. Watch as they show you how well they can play through it. Teach them to play their game no matter how the game might be called.

I went to rehab for the first time when I was in sixth grade. It was family day and my parents drove me and my two other sisters to support my sister who was trying to get sober. I’ll never forget a lot of things from that tumultuous time period in my life, but one of the greatest takeaways came in the form of a simplistic prayer. Maybe you’ve heard of it. The opening lines of the Serenity Prayer have guided me through more occasions than I could possibly count.

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Play through.


  1. Wendy: The clincher for me in the serenity prayer is the phrase about wisdom. I have not always practiced wisdom, especially when it came to our son. But I did learn that he would have to learn to navigate in this world. Praise the LORD, he has.

    1. I appreciate your honesty in this response. I'm learning every day.


Taking Time

college applications                 homecoming                            flag football                basketball             SATs   ...