There are a few typical ways to deal with an aggressive player in women’s recreational league soccer games: 1. confront the player (not very common), 2. avoid the player (somewhat common), or 3. complain about the player after the game (very common).
This summer, Cindy found a new way to address rough soccer play. She started an open Facebook (FB) group called “Womens’ 40+ Just Wanna Have Fun, BMO Soccer.” The call for the fall season made this group’s raison d’être clear:
“We need at least 60 women so we can create a CHILL soccer league. One where we are not out to kill each other. We will have very little person-to-person contact. If you are an aggressive player WE DO NOT WANT YOU.”
I was intrigued by this group because in the past I found it hard to distinguish normal from aggressive play. When I first started playing a few years ago, I mistakenly equated aggressiveness with skillfulness. But Cindy emphasized in the group that seasoned players can also be “chill”:
“Most of us have been playing for a number of years, but are tired of the players that seem to be out to kill. We want to just have a chance to get away from our daily routine, get some exercise, and socialize with others.”
If the regular rec divisional structure and rules weren’t sufficiently discouraging aggressive play, and the typical ways of players dealing with each other weren’t working to minimize it, then why not self-organize a new division to eliminate rough play altogether?
The initial proposed plan involved not only having a shared understanding that the entire division would be “chill” but also enforcing a zero tolerance for aggression policy and thus stricter rules of play:
“You will be benched if you are deemed playing aggressively. You will be warned once, and then kicked out of the league without any fees being refunded. We do know the difference between skilled and aggression.”
Another idea surfaced in the FB group to reduce aggression: eliminate scoring and statistics. Without wins and losses, there would be no league-tabling and therefore less competitiveness. A third suggestion was made for the division to do away with season-long teams altogether. No “us vs them” mentality, no fuel for aggressive play.
Cindy gave the choice to the then 60+ group members through a poll vote:
“Option 1. I want to play in a non-aggressive league without scores, stats, etc.
Option 2. I want to play in a typical league, just not with anyone aggressive.”
Which option would the rec women’s soccer FB group choose for a “chill” soccer league? Stay tuned for Part 2!