Parents Behaving Badly in Youth Sports
My children have been involved in competitive sports for many years now. My husband and I are both involved as volunteer coaches and have been since the onset. However, it never ceases to amaze me how badly – hideously, ridiculously – parents behave in the presence of competition. Even when this “competition” involves 4- and 5-year-olds.
Parents behaving badly has been epitomized by shows such as Dance Moms and Toddlers and Tiaras. And while the “entertainment” factor of those shows is pretty good – the bottom line is that the behavior is just plain awful. And sadly, it isn’t just saved for television.
Every year that we have coached softball, we have dealt with parents who have no idea how to behave. They truly think they are the only person on Earth, and don’t seem to care about the example that their actions are setting for children. And not just their children – but the other children that are present as well.
I have seen parents yell (YELL) at their 5-year-old t-ball player for missing a ground ball. (Ummm hello, he’s 5!) I have seen parents hollering at other parents, or the coaches who volunteer their time to help the kids out. I have witnessed parents getting into fights at softball tournaments. And I have seen first hand the horrific and detrimental effect this behavior has on the kids, sometimes separating friendships and almost always hurting the children first and foremost.
When a parent yanks a child off a team, or stomps out of a practice, or yells at a coach or teacher, or has completely unacceptable expectations of their child, the child is one that suffers. And worse, for the kids involved, there is embarrassment. Nobody wants to be known as the kid with the psycho mom, or the son of the dad who shouts obscenities during basketball games – or the daughter of the whack job mother who complains when her child doesn’t get to play 1st base.
In many ways, evident by the manner in which parents behave at competitive events, the world of parenting has become selfish and primarily self-serving. Every mom and dad wants his or her child to be the star. Parents are pushing harder than ever to get their kids to the top of some imaginary ladder, but the rungs are being pulled out from under the kids as they climb. And in the end, it only serves to motivate kids to quit.
A recent study from the National Sports and Recreation Association showed that beyond the age of 11, enrollment numbers for kids who play common sports such as football, soccer, softball, and baseball drop by as much as 61% compared to that of 8-year-olds. In other words, kids are being burned out before they really even have a chance to find out what they are successful at and passionate about. And the blame rests on the shoulders of these crazy parents who sit on the sidelines.
I, for one, am all for extracurricular activities. I believe whole-heartedly that involving your children in activities they love is important for their development. However, too many parents are living vicariously through their children, making asses out of themselves, and ruining the excitement for their children.
When rec departments and community sports leagues are forced to constantly ratify laws and bylines – or even cut programs altogether in order to maintain control of parental behavior during these events – it really is a crying shame.
Do you have any examples of parents behaving badly? Have you seen parents of toddlers completely lose their mind over a t-ball or football game?