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Caught In The Intensity Web and Experiencing "Tunnel Vision" On the Soccer Sidelines

Caught In The Intensity Web

The goal sends the red team parents straight into the sticky clutches of the "intensity web." Their girls have worked hard but have given up a goal. They feel the officials have missed several calls and, to make matters worse, the obnoxious parents from the blue team are taunting them by singing their celebration song.

The stage is set for bad things could happen. One of the red team parents is tempted to charge over to confront the assistant referee for failing to call the wing offside. Another parent wants to scream at the blue parents that they have no class. The red team parents are frustrated; they are a ticking time bomb seconds away from exploding. They are beginning to experience what I call "tunnel vision".

Tunnel Vision

Tunnel vision is the state where a parent loses his or her ability to see the whole picture of the youth sports contest they are watching. Instead of being able to think about different alternatives for handling a situation based upon experience and good judgment, the parent starts to think there are only a few ways to respond the intensity of the moment. Tunnel vision often causes parents to take a difficult situation personally and believe they have to respond forcefully to defend their honor, or the honor of their team or family.

Tunnel vision is so dangerous because it limits a person's range of options and makes the parent blind to the rest. Often times, under extreme pressure, a parent will respond with violent, or at least verbally abusive, behavior. The person loses the ability to think clearly and often will take action that he or she would normally not dream of doing.

Bad Things Can And Do Happen

In our soccer example, when the red team parents experience tunnel vision in the intensity web, their response can be either positive or negative. By calming down, a parent on the red team sideline may be able to get out of tunnel vision and, by seeing the big picture again, head off an ugly scene. When the coach or parent leader is not able to calm down the sideline and pull them out of tunnel vision bad things are likely to happen.

The bad results might include several of following:

  • A parent moves across the dividing line between parents and starts to confront them about their lack of class. This could end in a physical confrontation between parents. 

  • A parent verbally attacks a referee and may be cautioned about his behavior. If the referee does not handle the situation in a positive way, it may escalate into a red card, a parent ejection, or, worse, physical violence. 

  • Red team parents may encourage their daughters to physically harm one of the blue team's stars. In the next close playing confrontation an elbow may be thrown to the face or a hard slide tackle made from behind, resulting in a potentially serious - even career ending - injury to the player. 

  • At the end of the game, a parent may physically confront an opposing player and push her to emphasize how mad he or she is.