Be a Good Sport

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.

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9 thoughts on “Be a Good Sport

    • Agreed. Of course, the kicker is that the 3rd grade girls’ basketball league was desperate for coaches and sent out multiple (pleading) requests, which is how my dear husband ended up coaching. I want to know where this jerk was when the pleading e-mails were going out……

  1. This is all terrible…the worst is the parent who never participated in whatever sport they are watching and giving a VOLUNTEER COACH pointers…especially when the aforementioned coach actually played the sport at a competitive level and understands the game. Anyway, bless these people and the parent who knows how to just enjoy seeing their offspring be happy while PLAYING.

  2. Great post! I am the coach for my 4th grade son’s basketball team. Two of the kids on the team are pretty talented (at least compared to the other kids on the team), but the entire game all they do is look at and listen to their parents (BOTH of whom are using notebooks to keep track of their kids’ points). So while I am trying to teach the importance of passing to get the best shot possible (for example), they are screaming at them to shoot the ball. When I was a kid I was taught to listen to the coach. Period.

    Oh. I played basketball in college and France. I was a high school basketball coach and at one point our team was ranked #3 in New England. Both sets of parents are under 5’5″ and weigh about 250-300 lbs. Yeah, they played a whole lot of hoops….

    • Exactly. And lest I sound like a real athletic snob, my point is not that someone who isn’t “sporty” has no place in kids’ sporting events. Rather, my observation is that if you have never been on the playing side, you don’t get how counter-productive it is to have multiple people shouting conflicting commands at you while you are trying to play a game. Especially when you are 9. Funny thing is, the basketball league rules state that if there are 2 coaches, only one is supposed to issue commands during a game (“one voice” rule, which is not a bad one, and is also supposed to apply to spectators). My husband is actually quite good at following directions as long as I am not the person issuing them. So it often ends up that my husband, the assistant coach, is one of the few parents who actually keeps his mouth shut! Something is wrong with this picture…

      • The Drunken Cyclist. What CAN’T he do? [Sigh}

        Seeing as how I am kid-less, I at least had to put my 2 cents in. I yell at my dogs when they play ball and they barely listen. Focused little beasts.

  3. So, so true. My husband and I usually sit far away from the “stands” or where ever else it is that these parents pile up. I imagine that it appears that I “don’t care” about my kids’ games, but in reality, I just can’t take listening to the garbage talk of the parents that are glued to the sidelines. Better yet, the ones that smoke 10 feet away from the athletic event! Way to encourage your children’s health-please light up another one! Awful.

  4. So sad. I have a running friend with a son in kindergarten. My friend regales me with tales of his son’s prowess on the field. Yes, he is one of those yelling dad’s on the sidelines. I’m so embarrassed for him (and his poor son).

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