I was talking to my family about youth sports recently. The context focused on the idea of overbearing sports parents who do it for the wrong reasons.
I grew up around sports like many other kids. That allowed me to develop a passion for them and something I want to pass down to my children. For most of my childhood, I was dragged state to state for my sisters’ soccer tournaments. When your best friend is the coach’s son, it’s not a bad deal. I watched them succeed in youth soccer to high school and one of them was lucky enough to play college ball at THE NICHOLLS STATE UNIVERSITY, where my love for Nicholls began.
My wife was a starter for our high school soccer team in addition to having a spot on the softball team. I went to as many games as I could.
Meanwhile there was me…the washout. I am not here to re-hash stories of why it didn’t work for me. I am here to talk about the one thing I was able to do standing on the sidelines…observe.
Not only did I observe athletes on the field, I observed the people in the stands who were there to cheer on their children, or at least that should’ve been their only purpose.
In addition, I have attended a few youth sporting events over the last several years. I can tell you that some things never change. That includes the overbearing sports parents.
I witnessed parents cursing at officials, bad mouthing their own players, bad mouthing the other players and shitting on the coaching. Do us all a favor, sit your ass down. Shut the hell up and enjoy whatever sports career your child has.
With my son set to begin soccer in the fall, it is the one part I dread about my children playing sports. I have seen it first hand how idiotic and shortsighted parents and coaches can be when it comes to youth sports. Your job as a parent or youth coach should be about one thing and one thing only…fun.
Insert false bravado dude…NuH uHh iT’s AbOuT WiNNiNg!
People don’t like losing, most kids included. You know what losing teaches you though? It teaches you to cope and it pushes you to figure out HOW to win. One of my favorite quotes comes from Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own…
“It’s supposed to be hard…the hard is what makes it great.”
Within the last few years, I played on a men’s league team that sucked. We went from a 2 win team to a 4 win team to .500 team to a winning record and a semi final appearance. Watching progression unfold is one of the most rewarding and satisfying feelings.
As an athlete progresses each year, winning becomes a little more important and competitive nature is engrained. If you’re not having fun, then what is it all for honestly? I loved winning and hated losing. I still do. Sports became less fun when that is literally all it became about. Some days are good. Some days are bad. If you can’t handle that, that’s a you problem. Figure it out.
Often times, parents have this unrealistic expectation of where their kids should be so they drop dollar after dollar and apply pressure for their kids to be stars. Maybe being the star athlete was never in your kid’s future. Don’t pressure them and make them feel bad about that. There’s going to be a day where that pressure comes to a head and that child hates sports and resents the parent as a result.
I understand parents want their children to be successful.
Let’s set the record straight though. This is THEIR time. You had yours. Let them have theirs. If you didn’t make the big leagues nor the college ranks, why would you put that impossible pressure on your children constantly worrying about scholarships or them getting to the next level? What are you trying to prove?
Most of the parent who fit that bill are doing it for the wrong reasons, selfish reasons. The cliche is living through your kids. It’s sad and pathetic.
Sports are supposed to be good for your child’s development. It teaches them discipline, work ethic, teamwork, confidence, overcoming odds, accountability and so many other wonderful skills. It’s not about parents banking on scholarships and their children making it.
Of course, most child athletes dream of achieving those feats. I certainly did. So guide them and support them and let them attempt to live out THEIR dream. But if that’s your end game as a parent is for your child to fulfill your shortcomings, then you’re just an asshole.
I always think about those dickheads who scream at everyone from the sidelines. Hated them then. Hate them now. I’d be lying if I said I won’t enjoy the day when I encounter one because trolling people like that gives me more joy than it should. I’ve sat idly by most of the time because it didn’t involve my child or my child’s team. I felt it wasn’t necessarily my place. But when it involves my child, then it becomes my place.
That brings me to my own approach.
When my wife told me she signed our son up for soccer, naturally, I cannot fucking wait. She asked if I wanted to coach because it asked for volunteers on the form.
Coaching my children is something I go back and forth with regularly. For those who know me well enough, that may seem kind of odd that I say that.
On one hand, I was fortunate to play for my dad (either assistant or head coach) in soccer and baseball for a combined 9 seasons if my math is correct. Those are memories I certainly will never forget. I loved having my dad on the bench and in the dugout. The most fun he and I ever had was when I was 14. I didn’t get the opportunity to play summer ball for high school because I missed the first day of try outs so I stuck with recreation ball. It was still the most fun single season I ever had playing sports. It also helped we had a 23-0-1 record with a championship attached to it. Nonetheless, it was the first time my dad was the head coach for my baseball team.
In that season, I pitched a complete game to win the championship and my arm was dead. I threw over 120 pitches that game. We came in to bat for the top of the 7th and he pulled me aside and suggested pulling me. I looked him dead in the face and said “the fuck you are.” I had just had a bad inning and the top of the order was up. I remember one of the assistants happened to hear (it was a discreet conversation despite the language), the assistant who was also a friend of my dad said give him a shot. My dad did and I finished. But prior to, my dad said if you walk one person, I am pulling you. I understood that. I always had a stellar relationship with my dad as a sports parent/coach. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
It would be awesome to reciprocate the same for my kids. One of the most fun parts of playing for my dad was he trusted me. He trusted my judgement. It wasn’t one of those scenarios of “you get to do this because you’re my son.” He had no problem pulling me or benching me if I was playing like shit. He had no problem letting me have it if he felt I stepped out of line with an official. Whoops. That was the perk of playing for him when I was older versus younger. Years of trust.
On the other hand, part of me just wants to sit on the sidelines and enjoy watching my kids play. Let other dads worry about who hits where or who starts where or who gets the most minutes. I’d rather be a cheerleader on the sidelines. I can always coach them off the field. One of my favorite nights I remember vividly was when I was playing soccer. I was maybe 8 and I played goalie. It was a Friday night. I always had games on Saturday morning. My dad and I spent the entire evening in the front yard as he kicked the ball to me repeatedly to work on my goalkeeping. I just remember feeling confident and ready the next day for the game.
Coach or no coach, great memories can be made.
I only hope those memories with my kids last a lifetime because I allowed them to play without the added pressure of living up to a certain standard. Sure, there was pushing, but never pressure. There is a distinct difference.
This is THEIR time and I wish more parents understood that like my dad, the GOAT.
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