Sweep The Leg


Sweep the leg is the sort of pop culture reference that makes my generation smile. The boys and I use it both in jest and without, but I never thought that it would be used at my daughter’s soccer game.

That not just because the dark eyed beauty is 7.75 going on 30. It is because the league is for 8 and 9 year-old girls. It is supposed to be a place where the girls can have fun, learn how to be a part of a team and get the kind of exercise that video games can’t provide.

Most of the time the games really are nothing but fun, competitive but fun. But yesterday things got ugly. Yesterday the coach on the other team told his girls to sweep the leg.

Ok, I didn’t hear him say that but his team of pig tailed cut throats was out for blood. They pushed, kicked, shoved and tripped our girls with reckless abandon and unabashed enthusiasm.

The Enforcer

If you know me in real life you know that I play a very aggressive game on the field/court. I like the contact and I don’t mind banging into people or being hit. It is part of the game. So I told the girls to defend themselves. I told them that they were not to try and hurt the other team but that they couldn’t allow themselves to just be pushed around.

And then two of our girls went down hard and parents got angry. I did too. It was unnecessary.

I reiterated again that we weren’t there to retaliate but that we weren’t punching bags either.

In the interim things started to get ugly. The parents from the other team started trash talking and their coach told us to “get over it.” Words were exchanged and I began to wonder if things were going to wind up in a very dark place.

That made me very angry. There is no reason for that kind of talk or behavior, especially at a soccer game for kids.

The First Punch

I heard two of the fathers on their side start talking about who on our side needed to get their asses kicked and  I positioned myself just behind them. One of the other dads from my daughter’s team wandered over and told me that he thought I should stay out of it.

I laughed and told him that I wasn’t going to throw the first punch, but I wasn’t going to let them do it either. He said it wasn’t worth getting hurt and I told him that my kids weren’t going to witness a meaningless brawl on the side of the field.

He asked me how I would stop it and I told him that if necessary I would sweep the leg.

And Then What Happened

He laughed and I asked him to stay with me just in case something happened.  “I am not as big as you are and I don’t want to get hurt.” I shook my head at him and explained that it was unlikely he would. All we needed to do was stand in between the angry parties and calm would be maintained.

The coach for the other team turned and glared at us. “Your team is on the field coach, I think they need your attention. They are much cuter than we are. Maybe you should tell them to try kicking the ball and not our girls.”

My less than eager “peacekeeper” told me that I was doing a hell of a job of maintaining order. I smiled and said that some people just need a reminder that others are watching them.

In The End

The whistle blew and the game ended without fists flying. Several of our girls were in tears and there were still very angry parents buzzing about the edges of the field. More words were exchanged between them but fortunately nothing happened.

One of the moms on the other side made a crack about our girls being wimpy and I responded by telling her that nobody likes the mean girl and that mean moms are liked even less because junior high ended a long time ago. I wasn’t surprised to discover that she was the coach’s wife.

It really was a sad experience and a sad commentary about a lot of things. It is just a game.  My daughter is unaware of what happened between the parents on the sidelines so I am grateful for that.

Sometimes people are just peachy.

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  1. Jeff Wise April 25, 2012 at 6:46 am

    Great video and great memories of that classic movie from the 80’s! I played baseball for 14 years and I really don’t remember too many rowdy parents or coaches. I have heard lots of stories like yours though. Really sad.

    There is really something psychologically wrong with angry parents who want to see kids or other parents hurt. It’s as if they were bullied by someone in their past and this is the way they deal with it.

    I have two girls who are reaching the age where they can play sports and I’ll have to think things through.

    • Jack April 25, 2012 at 9:55 am

      Hi Jeff,

      I am not sure how much the kids notice/see but some must. Regardless of that it is just not right and it is quite disappointing.

      I haven’t any regrets about getting my kids into sports. As long as you pay attention and stay on top of things it usually works out pretty well.

  2. bridgetstraub.com April 24, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    It never ceases to amaze me how many parents never make it out of middle school. That video was hilarious though!

  3. Mike Shields ( April 24, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Of course, not too many people know what the original reference is from, however, for those that do, I wholeheartedly agree.

  4. Jens P. Berget April 23, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Hi Jack,

    I’m lucky. My daughter is swimming and not part of a soccer team. And even though they’re starting to get competitive. It’s a lot harder to sweep the leg in a swimming contest. But I do remember the sweep the leg tactic from when I used to play basketball, and let’s just say that a lot of things happened on rebounds 🙂

    • Jack April 23, 2012 at 11:49 pm

      Hi Jens,

      I was a swimmer in high school. I can show you a few tricks that swimmers pull. 😉 There aren’t as many, but they exist.

      Rebounds are a great time for helping other players adjust their attitudes.

  5. Joe April 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Little League season has started for us. Another year in the politically charged, win at all costs arena of boys’ baseball. The trash talking started at the opening day ceremonies (!!!).

    I’m hoping my son takes up golf so he and I can play, and we don’t have to worry about this “team sports” crap…

    • Jack April 23, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      Hi Joe,

      My kid sister’s children play in a league in New Jersey that takes it to a new level, the obnoxious, hyper competitiveness thing that is.

      When I was out there a couple of years ago I almost slapped the mothers and spit on the fathers just on basic principle. I love my children and I won’t lie- I would love it if they played pro ball.

      It would be amazing, but I make everyone crazy to make it happen. I don’t think they have the talent, if they were close maybe I would feel differently.

      But they aren’t and that is ok. Let them have fun and play because they love the game. Tonight I’ll go play ball with the boys and I’ll have a great time. Tomorrow I’ll ache a bit and wonder when father time will catch up with me. I can’t stomach the idea of not being able to play.

      That is what I want for my kids. I want them to love to play because they love the game.

      Maybe we’ll all get lucky and some of the jerks will disappear and team sports will be more fun for all.

  6. Bill Dorman April 23, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Sweep the leg indeed. When my oldest son played competitively, there was always a good amount of trash talking going on during the game you couldn’t hear and it would get chippy at times. It seemed the teams that were the most aggressive also had the most aggressive parents as well.

    I always liked how his team had each other’s back. If the opponent was too aggressive there would be pay-back and usually a hard slide-tackle somewhere in the game.

    Soccer parents and little league parents were always a trip. We did have a soccer match where the ref ‘cleared’ the spectators and everyone had to watch the game from their cars.

    Sweep the leg Johnny…….

    • Jack April 23, 2012 at 1:45 pm

      When I was a kid our games were very similar to how you described your son’s. You couldn’t go after one of us without taking on all of us.

      We always paid you back and expected the same from the other team. It was just how we played.

      But I don’t remember the parents being so obnoxious. I am sure they must have been, but I really don’t remember it being like now.

  7. Betsy Cross April 23, 2012 at 9:05 am

    When my kids were in team sports it was always the parents who made problems. I remember sitting in the hockey rink while my dad coached, and I watched people. They (the parents) got so wrapped up in the game. I hated it. And the kids playing had no reason to do anything other than what the adults egged them on to do and to be. I’m not someone anyone enjoys watching sports with. I cheer for the player that impresses me no matter which team! I’ve been told that’s very annoying. But it all moves so quickly I can’t help but get excited for whoever does something magnificent.
    Sports do tend to reveal a person’s character somewhat. Don’t you think?

    • Jack April 23, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      I am consistently disappointed by parents who act like jerks. It happens more times than I like to think of. Some of these parents make me want to slap them silly because their behavior is simply abhorrent.

      I am very competitive and I don’t like cheering for the other team, but sometimes you can’t help it. When the kids are young I want them all to have a good time and when they are older I can’t help but appreciate good play.

      Sports do say a lot about people.

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