My 9-year old daughter, N, had a basketball game on Saturday. It was intense. You know why it was intense? BECAUSE THE ANNOYING PARENT NEXT TO ME KEPT SAYING THAT IT WAS INTENSE!
We have all read about the crazed parents who throw punches (and worse) at the sidelines of their kids sporting events. I’m happy to say that, competitive as I am, I cannot relate to going that crazy over a kids’ game. Or an adult’s game. Or even a Red Sox-Yankee playoff game after multiple pre-game drinks at the Cask.
Fortunately, no one has thrown a punch at any of the 8 zillion games I have attended over the past 7 years. Then again, due to the ages and interests of my kids, I have not yet entered the world of “travel” and super-competitive team sports. We’re still in the zone of rec leagues, many of which don’t even keep scores. So maybe all that fun stuff is just ahead of me for now.
What I encounter regularly are parents who may not throw punches, but are nonetheless really annoying. Yes, even at these games that are in fact glorified skills clinics. Last year, during my then-kindergarteners’s soccer season, one teammate’s parent constantly shouted down the field at his child (who clearly didn’t even want to be there), “Score a goal and I’ll take you for doughnuts!” Huh? Every coach spends time at each practice and pre-game warm-up emphasizing that the game is about fun and sportsmanship, and not about goals and winning (particularly in kindergarten, when they don’t even keep score). What is a kid to think then, when he then steps on the field and the only thing he hears is his dad yelling at him to score a goal? Confused much? As a brilliant footnote to the story of this charming parent, at the final game of the season, his son did indeed score a goal. On his own team. One of the other dads turned to the yelling dad and said, “You know, you still better bring him for doughnuts. He did what you told him to do.” I could have kissed him.
I have to say, too, that I notice a trend in the super-annoying parents. Many of them appear not to be super athletes themselves. And I’m not saying that they are overweight or out-of-shape. Some are, some aren’t. But I know a lot of these people (small town), and even listening to the ones I don’t know talk at games, they don’t exactly have storied athletic careers behind them (or in front of them). They seem to be pinning their dreams on their kids. Which is really lame when your kid is 7. And they don’t keep score.
We actually have some parent super-athletes in our community – one of my daughter’s basketball coaches played in the NFL; my younger son’s baseball coach was a starter on a team that went to the Little League World Series (and won); two parent friends, married to each other, competed in the Ironman World Championship multiple times. We have plenty of other parents who were – and some still are- active in team sports on some level. Interestingly, these parents tend not to be the crazy ones. Coincidence? I think not. I think that if you actually played team sports when you were 8 years old, you know how it feels when people are yelling at you while you are trying to play. You know how useless it is and how it drowns out the voice of your teammates and coach and leaves you confused. You know how hard it is to remember all of the rules, skills – don’t double-dribble, keep an eye on defense, look to pass, look for a pass, where is the out of bounds line, who is coming up on me – without hearing random screams of “C’mon, Susie, Look to your teammate!” that don’t actually mean anything in the moment. It probably distracts you, it probably makes you tense, it probably makes you screw up, it probably does anything but help.
It will however, make the unassuming-looking mother next to you want to punch you.