Dear parents of kids who play sports,
I am one of you.
My children have been involved in sports since my oldest began 16 years ago. And my husband’s children started 16 years before that, so he has been in the active stages for longer than he wants to count. But that would be 32 years. So during that time, we have learned a few things. We’ve observed a few others. And in many cases they are startling and unsettling and so I’m writing to you in hopes that I can help you see differently! Certainly from what I’ve seen some of you are not bad, but a lot of you are! You are really bad. Bad to the core. Bad in a bad way and your kids are watching you. Will they grow up and be bad too?
There are so many things that I’ve seen take place on the field, I feel like I’ve been a bird observing from a tree. Keep in mind that I am not blameless here. I too have complained about coaches and ref’s and ump’s, and a kid out there who was not very good, why is he playing? I’ve sided with parents about a ref who’s not calling things in our favor (or maybe he did, but it only counts when he calls it against us and we don’t agree). There’s so many decisions made by so many other people out on the field that we feel helpless, like we have no control. Right? Get over it. It’s a game. And win or lose, those kids out there are learning. And for the most part they’re loving it. And what’s not to like? They’re playing a game. They’re running and high 5’ing and strategizing and figuring things out, what works, what doesn’t. Who has this strength and that strength and how do I play it to him? It’s pure fun…that’s why they’re doing it.
Why are you? Are you out there to enjoy the beautiful weather, sip on a cup of coffee. Love life, thank the stars above that you have a beautiful child who loves this activity and that they are able and capable to do it, that they have friends and teammates to support them and revel in the moment. That you get to watch extraordinary moments of skill and equally extraordinary moments of failure. That this is life and you have given the child that you love above anything this important opportunity to play and learn and grow.
No my sports fiend friend. I’ve spent years watching you. And you are marching along the sidelines of the game instructing your child’s every move whether they’re 4 or 14. You are walking and stalking in front of the chairs of other parents and stopping when it suits you to block them from seeing the game, because without your screaming remarks, this game could not possibly happen. We hire and pay for a coach to do that, but even though he’s with the team more than you, he can’t be trusted. Only you have the right words to make that team rock. Aaah and then somebody makes a mistake, a ref, a coach, a player and so you take a step back and instead of walking in front of us, you are walking behind us hollering even louder than before and right into our ears. You are annoying and unnecessary and your bright ideas and the things you think you could do better are not helping the game. They are making everyone miserable. Some of us are laughing at you, some of us would like to belt you and some of us would like to video tape you, so you could see what we see…how ridiculous you are.
You are bad, but there’s another guy who’s worse! He’s doing all the same things only he’s screaming at his kid with swear words and obscenities. These kids are 6 years old. It matters, but it would matter at any age really! It’s not enough just to yell at your kid, I’m sure he knows these things already since he’s probably been trained by you. The other kids haven’t, so you set your sites on them with your loud voice and your lovely language. The eyes of the other parents are shifting back and forth. Is this a nightmare or is it really happening right in front of me. And am I really ignoring this like it’s not important. We are complaining about it, but yes we are, we are ignoring it and saying nothing and the offensive parent continues to rant. I would hope that whatever age you are, you could play this game better than a 6 year old. That’s a bit of a given, I don’t need classic proof. Dummy, you are not playing the game, your kid is. Go vent your rage in your own game against people your own age. Don’t teach my child, I don’t want him to learn from you, I don’t want him near you. You are not even close to the example I want to expose my child to in the short amount of time I have his attention to teach him.
Well I’m not that bad you say. No of course not, but you are pretty bad. Weren’t you the one last week who was screaming at the ref because he missed some calls? Weren’t you the one criticizing the ref because he wasn’t much older than your child who was playing the game. Yes actually you were yelling at him and insulting him because he wasn’t in your book good enough to be out there. That boy is somebody’s child. Somebody who trusted you enough as a parent not to hurt him. Well I see it in your eyes, you’d hit him or shake him if you could, but you don’t because you can’t, but you can and do get him with your words. In a way, even worse.
Don’t you love it when parents compare kids and who’s good enough to be out there in the game and who shouldn’t be out there? Keep in mind these are kids, they don’t have your years of experience. They are learning. They are learning. They are learning. And they are built for fun. Not torture. They want to play the game for the love of the game, not to hurt, mangle and ridicule someone else. So if they’re not doing that, why do we feel it’s our responsibility to take it on?
Baseball & football & basketball look like the worst of these sports. Everyone wants their kid to shine in these sports. Everyone fancies themselves as the parent of a pro player in one of these sports. Parents are willing to spend money they don’t have to train their children to play in these sports. They are also willing to coach them. I’ve seen some of these teams with like 8 dads coaching. Their kids of course are always in the starting lineups. What though are their qualifications for coaching? Are they bored with nothing else to do? Do they love sports so much, it’s the only way to get in a door? Are they trying to get a better opportunity for their child? There are more questions than answers to that one. But an answer or two would satisfy me for a moment. I am pretty sure I would not have fun in a sport where 8 dads were hollering at me.
How would it feel to a kid if the group of dad coaches gathered to watch tape of each game? It would make me afraid of making a mistake, that’s what it would do. The fact that they would watch tape of opposing teams before they play is a bit scary, not so much if they’re 16 year olds, but 6 year olds…yikes. See that kid over there, he’s really slow, take his head off. Nice. See that one over there, he’s really fast, I want all of you to chase him & take him down. Great.
So watching a soccer game a few weekends ago, I wrote down some of the quotes from some of the parents. What you won’t see is the tone of voice used, but I think you can imagine it!
“Let’s go stars, anticipate this”
“Stick it in”
“Back it up boys, c’mon”
“You need to stop acting like this”
“Fight him Nick, fight him, stick it in”
“Win the ball stars win it”
“Go boys attack attack attack”
I actually did watch one father shove his small daughter into her chair. “Sit down you’re not going to play while we’re watching the game.” Really? To a toddler? Do you think she understands your obsession?
And it’s never enough for a parent to watch their child’s team win by a little bit. The more they can win by, the better. The cheering gets louder and more obnoxious the higher the difference of the score. Hey so if you can’t make your own team feel bad, let’s make sure the kids on the other team are totally demoralized! After all, isn’t that what we’re here for?
I took up knitting and it helps a lot. May look ridiculous to you, but it helps me focus my energy elsewhere. I still get to see the game, but my intensity relaxes. I can take a deep breath and reflect on the fact that life…and even games, don’t always go the way I’d like. But it goes on. And when it does, I have the chance to be the best I can be. That’s what we want from our kids. That’s what we want from ourselves.
Sports is a good thing. It’s a great thing for children. They learn discipline, respect, teamwork, friendship, trust, determination, sportsmanship, preparation/training, competitiveness, grace under pressure and the ability to accept defeat. And the joy of turning hard work into winning. There’s so many good things about sports that I just can’t help wondering why we insist on turning it into a bad thing.
Maybe sports aren’t for the faint of heart. They say that players have to have heart. I’m just afraid there are too many parents trying to rip those little hearts out.
Go be competitive in your own sport or your own job or your own arena of life. Live your life. And the best you can & should do is be a shining example to your children. Guide them, sure; direct them toward their own talents and desires, sure; help them get to where they want to go, sure. Show them how to create their own dreams and pursue them. But don’t force them to be who you want to be, take that journey yourself. Step out.
Hey we’re not perfect out there on the field of life. But we can watch tape, pick out our flaws and go out there and try again. And again. And again. Cause that’s life.
Just be nice.