Having just returned from a weekend lacrosse tournament in Asheville, NC, rabid and obnoxious sports parents are imprinted on my mind.
You know the type . . . the parents who . . .
scream and curse at the referees,
coach the team from the sidelines,
yell at their children from their camping chairs,
exit the field in a huff after a loss,
fight with the other team’s fans,
yell at the other team’s players, and
critique their children’s every move on the field.
What is it about the dust of an infield, or the smell of a wooden court, or the dampness of the turf that transforms parents into monsters, much like Dr. Jekyll’s monstrous Hyde formula?
Such parents may couch it as, “A love for the game,” or “A highly competitive spirit,” or “Trying to make their kids better athletes,” but I can easily say, without reservation, that such parents have it very wrong. And they are ruining the game for the kids and the other parents.
For starters, with very few exceptions, kids don’t want their parents’ negative feedback–probably never, but definitely not when they are on the field. Not only does it embarrass them, but it also destroys their spirit and confidence and stresses them out. Many of these kids love it when their parents have to miss their games and often perform better in their absence.
But beyond that, consider what such antics teach the children . . .
That sports are everything.
That excelling is the only way to please their parents.
That sports are all about winning.
Many times the children of rabid sports parents mimic their parents’ bad behavior. They are often overly competitive, critical of less skilled players and opponents, overly emotional over errors and losses, stressed, obsessed with the game and winning, and void of good sportsmanship.
If you find yourself within the text of this post, here are 10 ingredients for the Hyde antidote:
- Sit down, shut-up, and just enjoy the game. It’s supposed to be fun. If you get so immersed and emotionally invested that you start screaming and yelling and become a big ball of Tasmanian devil negativity, then you need to step back and get a new perspective.
- Cheer for your child’s team.
- Clap when a kid on the other team makes an exceptional play. This is hard to do, I know, but remember, it’s about the kids, and not just your kid. I love to hear a parent shout a compliment to a player on the other team–it demonstrates that the parent gets what sports are about.
- Keep your negativity to yourself–no one wants to hear it (except for maybe the other jackass parent screaming beside you). Seriously, have you ever noticed people whispering around you (yeah, it’s about you) or moving to the other side of the field or bleachers like there is a horrible stench?
- Encourage your child to have FUN. That is what playing a game is largely about. If they are stressed, or overly emotional, or exhibit bad sportsmanship, they are no longer having fun. And if you are a rabid sports parent, you are likely a significant contributing cause to that.
- Don’t, and I repeat, don’t critique your child’s every move, whether he is on or off the field. And when your child’s game is over, he doesn’t want to listen to you tell him all the way home about everything he did wrong. Most of the time he will not listen to you anyway, and it does little but injure his confidence.
- Play the game with your child instead of coaching from the stands. The best way I have found to “coach” my kids is just to play the game with them and nudge them along during the game. For example, I will play basketball with my kids in the backyard and subtly teach them how to cut to the basket, pick and roll, etc. In contrast, if I just yell at them, or tell them what to do, or bark at them from the sidelines, or make them do drills, they won’t listen or will resent me.
- Leave the game coaching to the coaches. Seriously, coaches hate when parents coach from the sidelines, and it can disrupt the coach’s game plan. If you want to coach, ask the coach if he needs help and volunteer as his assistant. Otherwise, keep your coaching mouth shut.
- Don’t storm off the field when your child’s team loses. One, you shouldn’t be taking the game that seriously. Two, it teaches your child bad sportsmanship. Three, you look like an idiot, and people ARE judging you.
- Instead of yelling at or critiquing your child, throw your arm around his or her neck and say, “Good game.” Seek out the positives to build up their spirits and confidence. They know if they played well or not, and your criticism will only make them feel worse about it or lead to resentment.
The Hyde antidote is sorely needed throughout the youth sport universe. Rabid parents have hijacked what once was fun and turned it into a job. And they are raising children with bad sportsmanship who will grow up and perpetuate the Hyde virus.
If this post hits home with you, take a deep breath and re-evaluate the priority you are placing in sports and your child’s success in sports. And if you know a jackass, send this post to him or her. There is a handful of obnoxious parents from the Asheville tournament whose email addresses I would love to have.