Sure, Dad, you can watch me play–as long as you stay in the car

When my youngest daughter was four, we signed her up for a summer soccer program. The coach was wonderful, encouraging, supportive, and everything else a coach should be. He started each practice with some stretches and a run from one end of the field to the other. Young Zoe was quite shy and didn’t want to run so I offered to run along with her on the sidelines.

At one of the first practices, there was another shy-looking kid whose dad had apparently made a similar promise. Or so I thought. When the coach shouted, “GO!” Zoe, the little boy next to her, his dad, and I all took off. The other dad was running right next to me and I heard him snarling to his son, “You better not come in last” Really? The kid is only four years old and already you’re putting pressure on him?

We’ve all read the stories (and sometimes seen the videos) of sports parents screaming at their kids, making threats, and attacking kids, coaches, and other parents. There have even been fatalities. I’m extremely competitive and I hate losing, but I can’t imagine killing anyone over a game.

So it was no big surprise that a recent poll of 300 sports-playing kids found that  more than a third of young athletes wished their parents wouldn’t watch them play.  ”They say the adults yell too much, are distracting, make them and teammates nervous, put pressure to play better and win, and just plain old make the kids feel bad,” according to a recent article. (It’s also no big surprise that 70% of kids drop out of youth sports by age 13.)

And this kind of insane behavior doesn’t end when the kids hit puberty. Just yesterday, Australian tennis player actually had his father thrown out of the stadium by one of the umpires. A year ago, another tennis player, Marion Bartoli, had both her parents removed from her match at Wimbledon. (It’s not just tennis: Duane Wade’s father was ejected from a basketball game because he refused to stop swearing.)

So if you’ve got a kid playing sports, you have several choices:

* Stop trying to live your life through your child. You had your shot. Let your child have hers.

* Be supportive and enthusiastic and root for everyone on the team–even if your child isn’t on the field at the time.

* Check out the Positive Coaching Alliance (which you should do anyway). They’ve gpt courses for coaches and for parents.

* Drop your kid off and take a walk or have a cup of coffee or something else. Just stay the hell off the field.

Comments

  1. This is a very necessary post. Nothing infuriates me more than seeing parents acting so competitively instead of being supportive. When our older daughter was 3 we put her in soccer (a mistake from the start). She’s very passive so the thought of lots of children chasing after one little ball frightened her. She entertained herself during the game by sitting in the middle of the field picking daisies. Okay, it wasn’t our proudest moment but we thought, “She’s three…who cares?” Well we found out that plenty of parents cared because she was a ‘handicap’ to the team.

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