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, and 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 age 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.