Let’s face it: Most of us are not raising professional athletes. Most of us are probably not even raising college athletes. Competition being what it is these days, I think most of us are going to be lucky to raise an intramural athlete. So the sports-induced craziness seen at the courts, fields and tracks on any given weekend in this town, and all over the country for that matter, seems a bit excessive to me.
I was recently at my son’s basketball game, and a woman whose child was on the other team kept yelling: “C’mon guys. You’re bigger than them! You’re stronger than them! You’re better than them! Win the ball! Win the ball! Win it!” I should mention that at the time they were crushing us by something like 50 points. Everyone in the whole gym could hear her, but I had to wonder, could she hear herself? Was she just so caught up in the Sunday morning drama of a mid-sized, regional, U12 basketball tournament that she lost sight of the fact that she was yelling insults at children? And that isn’t the worst thing that has happened by a long shot. Everyone I know has a story about adults throwing punches, cussing at coaches or making kids cry during games. This kind of child sports-induced mania is, sadly, becoming a cultural norm.
To combat this, I’ve made a list of some things you might want to keep in mind as you watch your child in his or her sport of choice. If you already know these things, then you might want to cut this out and slip it to that red-faced parent sitting next to you on the bleachers. You know, in the spirit of goodwill.
I have titled this list:
It’s Just a Game: Calm the @%&* Down.
1. There is a 99.993 percent chance that your kid is not going pro. Calm the @%&* down.
2. Unless your shirt says “Coach” on it, you are not the coach. If you aren’t clear on what this means, it means that during a game you should not be yelling instructions to the players, no matter how vital you believe your advice to be.
3. The only words you should ever say to a referee are, “Thank you.” They are doing their best. Even when they may make a mistake, it is almost never on purpose. Making calls isn’t a science; sometimes a bad call works in your favor, and other times it doesn’t. File this under the category: Life ain’t fair.
4. Your children should address their concerns with the coaches themselves. You should not get in your kid’s coach’s face with complaints about playing time, position assignments or coaching decisions. If children have questions, they should address it themselves. If they can’t, then either a.) they aren’t old enough or mature enough to be in competitive sports; b.) it isn’t that important to them; or c.) they’ll learn the very important lesson that they don’t get answers to questions they don’t ask. Either way, you asking for them isn’t helping anyone.
5. Your kid is watching you as much as you are watching them. You know those turdlets who make nasty comments to other players on the field during a game? This is a learned behavior. I’ll bet you a year’s supply of Reduced-fat Pringles that their parents are doing the same thing on the sidelines.
6. You should never say anything to anyone else’s kid other than a compliment. I’ve heard parents yell things at kids on the other team that I wouldn’t say to my worst enemy. This is never, ever OK, even if the little bugger raked his cleat against your son’s Achilles. You are the adult, and as such you must refrain from name-calling (an unfortunate but undeniable artifact of adulthood).
7. You are not on ESPN. If you find yourself reporting your child’s stats to anyone who didn’t specifically ask, you should stop. Immediately. At best, this is totally uninteresting; at worst, it is supreme douchebaggery.
8. Your child is not as good — or bad — as you think they are. You tuck them into bed at night. You take care of them when they’re sick. When you look at them, you can still see the sweet little 3-year-old they used to be. You cannot possibly form an objective assessment of their abilities at sports or anything else. It is a good thing this is not your job.
9. Win or lose, the lessons are the same. The 25-year-old version of your child will probably not need the technical skills they are learning in their sport of choice. But they will need to know how to be a team player, how to lose gracefully, how to win gracefully, how to show up when they don’t want to, how to stand in someone else’s shadow, how to work with difficult people and how to know when it’s time to lead and when it’s time to follow. They might not become professional athletes, but they will become citizens of this world. And they will use the lessons they learned playing sports during this magnificent ballgame we call life.
10. The only six words parents need to say to their kids before or after a game: “I love to watch you play.” Researchers and other sciency people have actually documented this. Plus, it makes good sense. Our kids just want us to have fun watching them. They want us to be proud. They want us to be there. (And I think if you’d ask them, they’d also say they want us to be quiet.)
“Mom, you have Mizzou hair!”
— Emily, 7, to her mom, who had let a little too much time lapse between hair-coloring appointments
While reading about microbes that are 5 billion years old, 5-year-old Jake asked his mom, “Is that as old as Poppu?”
“Mommy, I love your belly!”
“You do? Why?”
“Because it’s so squishy!”
— Piper, 4
“Mom, how old were you when you were a baby?”
— Theo, 3
“You’re the best mommy I’ve ever had!”
— Bianca, 3
Vintage VW Camper Pop-up Tent, $65.99, Go Baby Go
Two minutes from flat to fully loaded and ready to roll. You can bring this baby anywhere. Available in blue, red and pink.
Wusthof barbecue tool set, $75, Tallulahs
This five-piece barbecue tool set is the perfect gift for Dad. And that means you don’t have to cook!
Gift For Father’s Day, Mud Room
Why not give dad a personalized gift made by your (or your child’s) very own hands? A grill platter, drink tray or snack bowl are great options. Prices vary.
Kalencom Daddy Diaper Bag, $85 Go Baby Go
This is a great gift for the new dad in your life. It’s completely wipeable and has lots of rooms for binkies, blankies and bottles (also very manly).
Jill is a stay-at-home mom of two (an odd title because she is rarely ever at home). In her pre-Mommy days, she graduated from the University of Missouri with an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master’s in social work, with an emphasis on children and family studies. But she wishes she would have gotten a Ph.D. in What’s For Dinner and How to Get Bubblegum Out of the Carpet. That would have served her better.
Read her blog at jillsorr.com