David Beckham, soccer dad

So David Beckham’s son is trialing with the Chelsea FC Academy. This is pretty much a zero of a story, except for Beckham’s remarks on his approach to the tricky question: how do you not crush your child with your outsized ambition for him or her to follow in your considerably rare footsteps?

I don’t want to rag on Beckham for how he raises his kids, mostly because I have no clue how he raises his kids, and even I did, that would be pretty weird. And in the end it’s just a bunch of lame quotes in the Daily Mail.

Even so, maybe it’s the need for David Beckham to play up to the Extreme Soccer Dad demographic—both British and American—but his remarks on how he’s going to be hard on his son sound a little jerk-ball to me:

“[My children have] a great life set up for them,” he told The Times. “Obviously our boys and little girl are very lucky.

“But I think, as a parent, you always worry: ‘Have they got the hunger that I had as a kid?’”

He added: “I’m as hard on my boys as my dad was. They always ask, ‘Did I play well?’ I’ll say, ‘You did alright, could have done better…”‘

First, why not be as hard on your girl too? There are womens teams now. They have a World Cup, I hear.

But the thing that gets me is the “Could have done better.”

“Hey dad how’d I do?”

“You did alright, could have done better…”

“Oh. Okay dad. How exactly?”

“You could have scored a few more goals”

“Oh okay. I did score the winner.”

“Could have scored another goal. And your lateral passing was inconsistent. Just saying son. But look, you did alright. I just think you could have done better.”

Screw you soccer, and SCREW YOU DAD! Okay, I’ll try harder next time. I love you.”

Sports parenting is always presented as this really difficult thing, but it’s kind of embarrassing and slightly ridiculous for example that we need a Long Term Player Development plan to tell coaches and parents that screaming at kids when they lose is not a good way to encourage kids to want to keep trying to improve their game.

Beckham’s certainly not screaming abuse, but the “Could have done better” thing is a classic in playing with your kid’s need to win the approval of his or her parents. But if I don’t use my son’s natural desire to try and impress his father, he won’t work hard enough at the football, and—who knows?—become a doctor without borders or something. Hence the need to go all alpha on your kid and give him the old “could have done betters.”

Why not just a simple, empathetic “You did very well! There a few things I think you can improve on. When I was United for example and I was having trouble with this…” etcetera etcetera? The real challenge is to encourage that hunger to improve by demonstrating how hard work will translate into improvement. But if your kid hates football because he associates it with something his dad is perpetually unimpressed with, he’s not going to want to play. The thing is, as with all elite footballers—including the many footballers whose drive to perfect their game flourished despite not having overbearing critics for parents—the love of playing football drives everything that comes after it.

Anyway, just sayin’. I’m sure Beckham’s a great dad.