Thursday, September 20, 2007

Setting a bad example: Parents melting down at kids' sporting events

Lindsay Ferrier's September 18 post on "Suburban Turmoil," When Dads Attack, Preschool Edition, is a very funny account of what could have been a very serious incident at a soccer game between teams of girls aged three to five. Come back after you've read it.

Back so soon?

When Younger Daughter played soccer in grammar school the home games were in "Bluejay Park" (not its real name) and Long Suffering Spouse and I would make a point of trying to go.

But we sat quite a distance away from the field.

Long Suffering Spouse is a teacher -- and she didn't want parents coming up to her during the game and asking how Junior was doing in Spanish class... or, worse, berating her for giving out too much homework... or making the test too hard.

So we didn't see a lot of bad parental behavior at soccer games. Not from our vantage point.

But we've seen plenty at baseball games over the years.

The leagues at Bluejay Park were "recreational" -- meaning supposedly not cut-throat competitive. And, by rule, all the kids had to play. Over the many years our children were in the program, the rules evolved for the older kids. At one point, when Oldest Son was in junior high, coaches were required only to bat everyone once. There was no continuous batting order -- and no rule requiring every kid to play the field. By the time Youngest Son was at that same age, eight years later, all kids had to play three innings in the field and the continuous batting order was mandatory. (Fourteen kids on the team? Fourteen kids had to bat before your leadoff hitter came up again. Usually the kids batting 10-14 were not likely to hit anything, except by accident.)

But even with these supposedly kid-friendly rules (and everybody got a trophy, too!) tempers could -- and did -- flare. My perception was that parental involvement decreased as the kids got older: Parents, grandparents, and various aunts and uncles all showed up for t-ball games. By the time the kids were allowed to pitch, only the parents were left. By the time the kids could drive themselves, hardly any parents showed up at all. (This was a shame, really, since those were much better games.)

Parents had a tendency to melt down more during grammar school games than high school games -- and to get in the coaches' faces more during the younger years, too. The change over time was not necessarily the result of increasing maturity on the parents' part: In high school, at least around here, they'll cut a kid whose parents are a problem. In football (a non-cut sport) they can make life so difficult for the child of problem parents that he'll quit.

Readers will remember my kvetching about some of the parents during this Summer's travel ball experience. But, although some of the Raptors' parents were not well versed in the game (or in what coaching teenage boys necessarily involves) I never thought anyone was going to become violent. I sometimes thought violence was a real possibility at some of those 'recreational' Bluejay Park games.

Middle Son is pitching still in college. The parents there are grizzled veterans. Some will berate the umpire -- I don't dare because I don't want the umpire to punish my son for my complaints -- although, I admit, sometimes I groan involuntarily. Or sigh. But, for the most part, the atmosphere is far more laid back than at games involving 10 year olds.

Or, apparently, involving three year old girl soccer players.

But, Ms. Ferrier and others similarly situated, I guess I'm saying there's hope.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

why do you suppose parents behave that way and what are they teaching their children when doing so? sigh... sports again, right?

smiles, bee


katherine. said...

I don't know...I found that while fewer parents are problems in high school sports...the ones that are still over the top hotheads are much worse. Threatening even.

My football parenting experience is threefold. As the Mama of a cheerleader... a well loved center who was captain ...and a star soccer player who played kicker senior year.

All three had great experiences..except for the threats and other nastiness when parents (on our team and others) when they found out the kicker was a girl.

I'm not so sure making life difficult for the kid of the obnoxious parent is what I would want to see happen. I know of one family where the football player is a great kid...and the Dad is a horrible man...and shows it at every game.

My personal experience is that it doesn't ease up from the parents until college. At that point the parents are outnumbered in the stands...and a lot of the time the parents don't live in town.

rdl said...

Ya think? Ah sports...