Friday, April 16, 2010

The Yellow Card

I wasn’t on the sideline when it happened. I was on another field when the referee threw the yellow card on my daughter.

We had two soccer games both at 6:30. The children rode with me to the soccer field, and my older daughter was anticipating the night’s game a little more than usual. She announced to us on the way, “Amy asked everyone in our class this morning, ‘Who do you think is going to win tonight? Me or Emma Reed.’” Like any good Southerner, our daughter gave an exaggerated pause and we were left hanging for a few seconds, waiting to hear the results of the impromptu 4th grade straw poll. She continued, “And 23 people said me, and only 2 said Amy.” The Cheshire cat couldn’t have mustered a bigger grin. Our daughter was full of excitement anticipating tonight's game against her friends. “I’ll vote for you too!” Our little friend spoke up enthusiastically (who happens to be the sister of one of the players Emma Reed was playing that evening). “Ok. That makes twenty-four people who voted for us,” she said happily as we all climbed out of the car.

You watch Emma and I’ll go with Ellis.” I told John as he walked up to the lower fields.

“You sure?” He asked.

“Yea. We’ll be back down here after Ellis’ game.”

John stayed to watch Emma Reed. My younger daughter and I found her field and team. Two families who are dear friends happened to be playing on the field just opposite our younger daughter. We said hello and chatted. In prior games their team experienced soccer field drama, of the 7-year-old-boy variety. For the most part we’ve escaped any serious drama. If you’ve been on the soccer field as a parent, aunt, uncle, friend or coach you know games get intense. The children look to their coach and parents for instruction. And by the way, to the elementary school-age child the referees are the ultimate arbiters of good soccer.

I've settled in watching our younger daughter and I'm curious to know how Emma Reed is doing in her game, so I text John.

Me: “Ellis’s ER?”

John: “She just got a yellow card....I am pissed

Me: “Surely you r kidding...

What you should know is, we have never seen, or heard tell-off a yellow card being thrown at this level. Never. Unimaginable. Really unthinkable. What in the world happened? My heart begins to race and I feel the blood rushing up from my neck.

John: Nope...this guy is a fuc!ing fool.

Me: For what???

John: It was fuc!ing stupid...the guy is a joke.

I know what a yellow card is. And I understand the severity of having a yellow card thrown on a player. The severity that accompanies the yellow card is the precise reason we've never seen or heard of one being thrown at this level--their actions intentional or accidental simply do not merit a yellow card. My younger brother played high school soccer. The yellow card is pulled when the player’s infraction is so flagrant that the referee really has no choice but to throw the yellow card. Sometimes it is thrown to keep bullies and hot-heads in check...but my Emma?

Me(texting): Is that a personal foul...who did it involve...

John: Said she intentionally threw the ball at somebody.

I stomp over to our friends–who are not unfamiliar with soccer drama. “John just said Emma Reed got a yellow card!” “What?” Our friends exclaimed. “What happened?” The Dad immediately responded. “I’ve never heard of that!”

“I know” I said. “John says it was ridiculous. Trying to find out. Maybe you should text him.” I told our friend. And he does. He beginsAs I walk back over to watch my daughter, our friends are as surprised as I am about the yellow card. This just doesn’t anyone.

Me(texting): Trey is on his way with backups...

Me: Who? Did the ball hit someone?

John: Don’t know who.

I was trying to act as interested as I could in my younger daughter’s game but I needed details.

Me(texting): Did u see her throw it in and the ball hit someone...sorry just can’t believe a yellow card.

Never seen that?? Thought it might involve Amy or Lindy since they all go at it?? Score??

John: No...I was standing right by her. The ref almost got his ass beat. He made her cry. 0-0.

Me: Oh no. Bless her. Coach should encourage her...don’t want her to get turned off.

John: He did. Everybody did except the damn ref.

My face is red as a beet. I’m fuming and sad for Emma. I hope the poor call by the referee doesn’t make her timid or unsure of herself....she had gained so much confidence this season.

As our game ends, my friends walk down to the field with me. They too want to know exactly what took place....who made this call and why? John walks over to me and explains to us that Emma was throwing in the ball from the sideline and it hit another girl in the chest. It was an obvious accident. The ref ran over and pulled the yellow card in her face and yelled, “You intentionally hit her. That’s a yellow card for you.” She was visibly upset, crying. Her coach encouraged her and from the tone of John’s text I’m sure he adequately displayed his own disgust to the referee, who is college-age.

John went on to say that our dear friend who was helping coach the other team was obviously outdone with the call and yelled, “Don’t worry about it Emma. Keep your head-up.” In the heat of the moment our friend extended genuine and heartfelt encouragement, and.he did so in spite of the fact that the poor call benefitted his daughter's team. These are the moments we wait for, and we watch for as parents and people. The moments we try to prepare for. The unscripted moment when crushing disappointment strikes our child....who will offer the heartfelt words of encouragement.

As we stood on the sidelines and watched the rest of the game our friends, John and I cheered loudly for Emma Reed and her teammates. She gave us big smiles and we knew we had sufficiently rehabilitated her self-assurance--as family and friends do.

Honestly, I thought my dear friend Robyn might take the field to give our precious daughter a big bear-hug.I know she wanted to, I could see it in her eyes. After the game a mother of a teammate came up to us, her hands planted firmly on her hips, “What kinda shit was that?” I shook my head and smiled, “I don’t know just an overly eager ref, baaaadd call" I replied. “I’ll played a good game hon,” she said as she looked at my daughter. The kids piled in the car with John and as I walked to my car I reviewed and quickly analyzed the night’s events. The bonds of friendship and community provide real and visible opportunities to build people up, or tear them down. I appreciated our friends’ show of support and genuine interest in Emma Reed immediately following the yellow card episode. During dinner, as we discussed the game she teared up again. In fact, she was so upset she was unable to talk, unable to finish her statement--why did they pull the yellow card? We gave her the obligatory' it was a bad call' and reminded her, and ourselves, it wouldn't be the last bad call if she continued to play sports.

Ideally, competition fosters character, resolve and discipline. Occasionally, a comment, gesture or action by a player, coach, parent or referee goes beyond the pale of proper play/etiquette. There is no play-book to instruct you the parent, or the coach how to handle the comments, gestures and/or actions which are beyond the pale. When you're in the middle of a game feelings and emotions are real and meaningful, not only for the players and coaches but for the parents watching on the sideline. Everyone is emotionally invested. This is life-training at its best. When the yellow card is thrown on your daughter, I hope you have good we did.


  1. You tell Emma Reed she is the bomb and handled the whole situation gracefully! And the "ref", if that's what he's gonna call himself? You gotta be kidding me.... :)

  2. I blame it all on Camille.

  3. Look, it's not hard to get the call your team needs with these young refs....a six-pack will do it....