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By TED SILLANPAA
@tedsillanpa on Twitter

It’s unwise to judge every parent solely on what you see or hear from them at a youth sports event.

My hunch is that you’re one of those parents who don’t think game officials should ever be questioned and who insist that coaches are always right. You only cheer good plays at your kids’ competitions. Heck, maybe you cheer all plays and cheer for both teams. Most definitely, you see and hear someone like me at a youth sports event and think you’re a far better person than I am.

Yep. I’m that parent. The dad who will question an umpire’s strike zone — even at the lowest levels of baseball. I’ll likely shout something if my son’s playing quarterback and takes a blow to the head after he releases the ball … even back when my sons were 10, 11, 12 and playing youth football. The rules are the rules. And, I’ll always openly root for my kids’ teams to win. If they ever had or ever do play a game without the scorebook open and the scoreboard turned on, I won’t care about the outcome at all. I promise.

And, you’re thinking, “This guy must just be the worst sports parent.” Right? You can’t imagine what type of monsters I raised.

If you’re thinking I spent hours and hours playing ball with and coaching my sons, you’d be right. When you leap to the conclusion that I forced my kids to play, you’d be wrong. You’d still think that I probably do if you saw me watching my youngest son (who doesn’t play at in Sonoma County) pitch for his high school this spring. (I’ll be the nervous dad who’ll cheer and, generally, react to his games like you probably do watching a big league game.)

It wouldn’t be wise to judge me, or any parent, solely on what you think you know of them based on sports.

I’m happy to point to my kids’ accomplishments, based on standard measurements for judging a parent’s skill set, andĀ dare you then to say, “That guy ruined or will ruin his kids with that attitude toward sports. Parents like this guy hurt society.”

My kids were or all are honor students. That includes Advanced Placement and honors courses that their boneheaded old man never could’ve handled. I tried to help them with their homework as often as I practiced their games with them.

Three sons and one daughter, combined, got a negative report during a parent-teacher conference one time. My daughter’s sixth grade teacher said my daughter was “a little too social.” The kids get along with their peers. They didn’t cause trouble in school and anywhere else. I’m told that people consider them polite and respectful.

My daughter walked away from sports at about age 8, when people assumed I’d never let her be anything but an athlete. She devoted herself to the arts and now commutes 80 miles a day to an arts school in the Bay Area. My chewing her out for not paying attention in Bobby Sox softball games at ageĀ 6 hasn’t held her back and she’s just now approaching age 15.

Sports accomplishments? Admit it, you want to hear that the sons burned out and under-achieved. You want to hear that so you can criticize the next mom or dad you hear who sounds like me at a kids’ game. My kids have all-state, all-league and other awards beyond those kids get for showing up these days in youth sports. They’re really competitive in sports and that serves in lives that, as it turns out, require a great deal of competitive drive, too.

We shouldn’t stereotype youth sports parents. It’s not wise to question a parent based on what you hear or see at a kids’ game. Everybody’s doing it, though.

 

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Comments

8 Comments

  1. Loneraider78

    I have two kids, a four year old girl, and a two year old boy. Of course I want them to be interested in sports, but I’m telling myself to back up and let them decide for themselves when the time comes.

    An early lesson I’ve learned in parenting is to not judge (or try not to judge) others on how they raise their kids. Afterall, they have to live with them, not me.

    If and when the time comes, I have told myself I will give it my best to restrain myself and not be the loud parent. Of course I will cheer like hell when they do something good, but I will stomach my displeasure when they receive the short end of the stick if possible.

    Not because I think it’s tacky or wrong, or that I’m concerned about the opinion of others, but because I want them to understand that when the step between the lines daddy will not be there to fight their battles. They need to learn how to fail with class and composure.

    They need to learn respect for the game, even when the game seems unfair.

    How can they do that if I’m behind the fence acting like a jacka**?

    But like I said, to each his own.

    February 14th, 2013 6:38 pm

  2. Kb

    I will judge parents at youth sporting events. I have seen what excessive parental pressure can do to kids. When you see extremes, they can dictate judgements.

    February 14th, 2013 8:07 pm

  3. overtime

    KB…Judge and you’ll be judged, my friend. I’m just thinking that I can’t be the only dad you might judge without knowing anything about me and judge me and my kids wrongly.

    What you call “excessive parental pressure” is subjective sometimes. When my youngest son hit high school, I decided I wouldn’t bug him or ask questions after his games. Just leave him to his thoughts, you know? As we drove home he was kind of fidgeting and finally said, “What’s your deal? You don’t have anything to say about the game? You just don’t wanna talk or something?” So, we talked … but, you might have heard the conversation as an outsider who doesn’t know us and thought it was an example of “excessive” pressure because he wanted to talk about how he played … what he could do better … etc.

    You’re the last guy I figure would rush to judge for no good reason. TED

    February 14th, 2013 9:18 pm

  4. overtime

    Raider…Thanks for sharing your thoughts. That’s the idea I had in mind…to start a dialogue. I’ve been the dad I regretted being at games more than once. I’ve mellowed over time. And, hey, I judge parents when I know lots of them are forcing their kids to play a game the kid doesn’t enjoy. I ran into kids forced to play while coaching teams from youth sports into high school.

    My kids and every team of kids I coach do respect the game because … I was fortunate enough to sell the idea that I expected from them a level of dignity and discipline and dedication. I explained that it didn’t help them play better if they got upset, questioned officials, etc. I told them that when rules were misinterpreted or something that I’d deal with it…and I did. And, they didn’t follow suit because…they knew I just wanted them play the game.

    My kids, somehow, did learn to handle the ups and downs … the wins and losses … even when I did act like horse’s hind end behind the fence. I’m not proud of my actions in every instance, but … I guess they separated themselves from the old man and it worked OK.

    It’s just reached a point where I’ve felt pressure NOT to cheer at, say, a JV sports event. Once, my youngest was pitching a varsity baseball game as a freshman. His brother, a former college shortstop, were in attendance. My son got a grounder to shortstop that got booted and thrown away…2 errors on one play. My older son shouted, “Shake it off…all you can do is throw strikes.” And, another parent told him not to be critical of the kid who made the error. My son said, “I’m just cheering FOR my brother and … it’s high school and an athlete who thinks that is criticism shouldn’t be playing.” Like you said…to each their own.
    TED

    February 14th, 2013 9:26 pm

  5. janis Meredith

    Hey, I understand your frustration at being “labeled” as a sports parent. I’ve been a coach’s wife for 28 years and a sports mom for 20…I’ve seen it all. People should not be labeled, unfortunately they will be just because we are all human and we tend to do that. The deal is…your behavior as a sports parent affects your child’s character, whether you want to admit it or not. If your behavior has helped your kids grow up to be strong, responsible, kind, hard-working people, then you’ve done a good job…or just got darn lucky!

    February 15th, 2013 8:04 am

  6. overtime

    Janis…Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I coached after I played and before my own kids were even involved in sports. Then, I coached my kids and their peers. So, while I was the parent who gets judged … I was also the coach who got to talk to kids about how they feel … talk to parents about what it feels like for their kids when the parents get too loud or apply too much pressure, etc. I didn’t get “lucky” with my kids. They have a mom. They had other coaches. They had teachers. There were other parents involved in their lives. And, at my worst (or best) as a parent or a coach … I was also their dad at home who did things with them and for them. I listened to them. We talked.

    As a coach … I had great success not worrying at all about pleasing parents. I coached the young people as teams and individually. My goal was to make it a good experience for the kids…and that meant I didn’t care if parents liked ME or agreed and understood with how I approached the job. Looking back, those kids who are now adults tell me I did a pretty good job making their sports experiences enjoyable and beneficial. Maybe we should focus on the kids and worry less about the parents we can’t control? TED

    February 15th, 2013 1:14 pm

  7. Jeff

    Ted, I have been a sports parent sitting in the stands, I have helped with my sons Jr. Football team, and I have coached high school soccer for more years than I would care to admit. I have seen all kinds of sports parents. I have seen parents that would yell the whole game so loud I could hear them across the field and the player would respond positivelly. I have also had high school girls come of the field upset, frustrated and almost in tears asking me to tell their parent/brother/sister/mom to just shut up.
    The key for parents is to understand their child. Not all kids respond to the same thing.
    I don’t judge loud parents until a player lets me know they are bothered by them. Then I will have a polite conversation with them. Let them know what their child is saying.

    Having said that, there is one type of parent that I just can’t help judge. I have had players that I have coached for 6 or 7 years and never saw either parent at a single game. I know schedules can be tough but don’t tell me you can’t come to just 1 game in 6 years. Nothing worse than watching a young player look at the crowd every game hoping that a parent took the time to come watch them play.

    February 16th, 2013 9:31 am

  8. overtime

    Jeff…Thanks. Great stuff.

    I must’ve gotten lucky dealing with kids who had parents who were loud. I tried to take the burden to even listen to the parents off them by telling them, with all the parents at a meeting, that I didn’t want the players listening to what was going on in the stands. My son’s high school baseball coach today demands that parents not “coach” from the stands, threatening to send kids home. I fear that becomes subjective and a parent shouting, “Hey … swing at strikes” can be considered “coaching” when it might just be a happy, excited, nervous parent cheering for his kid and the team.

    In 25 years or so coaching, I never had a kid say a word about parents because I’d make it really clear that I thought some parents were out of line … so, the kids were free to be oblivious to even the loudest parents. I didn’t have to talk to the parents (save a couple times) because kids on my teams embraced the idea that … it’s their game and they’re not going to let adults in the stands ruin it. Like I mentioned … I was lucky.

    Never had a kid show me he worried if he didn’t have family in attendance either. But, I really tried to create a family atmosphere and make sure that kids who maybe didn’t get the attention they need that you noted got it from me, people I coached with, other parents, etc. Sadly … we can’t legislate how people parent, can we? TED

    February 17th, 2013 12:00 am

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