Recently at my son’s baseball park, I broke up the argument (near-fistfight) of two dads whose panties were in a wad about something that had happened on the field during their 6-year-old sons’ game. I told them they could beat each other silly, but to please take it to the parking lot so every kid within a 30-foot radius (including mine) didn’t learn the language they were spewing or watch two dads act like over-testosteroned children.
The time for kids’ sports has come again. Time to break out the camp chairs and coolers full of Gatorade and team snacks. It’s also time for a Public Service Announcement to parents who may need to chill out on the sidelines.
- Your kid isn’t the next Tom Brady, Steph Curry, or Derek Jeter. Somewhere out there is ONE mom or dad whose kid is. But it’s probably not you.
- Your kids will never remember whether they won or lost a particular game, but they will remember and, more importantly, imitate your reaction to the coaches, referees, and other adults.
- Violence isn’t the answer. Just…ever. Don’t get into fights, and find another way to settle conflict.
- Those adults out there with your kid? They’re either volunteers or paid professionals. One is selflessly giving time so kids can learn and enjoy sports. The other has risen to a level where someone believes they should be paid for their expertise. You don’t have to agree with coaches or referees all the time, but you might appreciate that they’re out there with the kids while you’re on your ass in a lawn chair. If you think you can do better, volunteer or apply for the job, and report back in six months.
- It’s just a game. Repeat that to yourself whenever you need to. It’s just a game. We aren’t ending world hunger here. We aren’t finding the cure for cancer. This isn’t a life or death situation. It’s just a game. The world has real problems, but that last botched call in 8U baseball isn’t one of them.
- Organizing sports has taken the fun out of sports. Kids have an innate sense of fairness that we lose as we get older. My favorite times to watch my kids play sports are in our neighborhood, when kids of all ages are teaming up. They are their own referees. They create rules to enhance fairness. For example, when my 5-year-old son gets up to bat, the older kids don’t just give him three strikes. They pitch until he hits. When he finally hits, they count to five before they throw to first base. I didn’t tell the kids to do this or even to include him. They did it themselves. This is the best kind of kids’ sporting event.
- Love your kids for who they are and the amazing talents they possess. If your kid’s talent isn’t sports, then you’d better be in the front row at the violin concert or art exhibit cheering him on. Your kid may not have the same athletic prowess that you did as a child. Your kid might not have the same passion or love for the game that you did (or still do). And THAT’S OKAY! There is nothing more heartbreaking than parents who are angry and disappointed when their kids don’t want to play sports, or worse, force their kids to play anyway.
I LOVE sports and the life lessons and GOOD memories sports can provide for kids. But I’m also calling for common sense, fairness, respect, and sportsmanship. Most of all, I’d like to see parents back off. Yelling? Criticizing? Fighting? They don’t belong in a place where kids are learning and trying to have fun.