Every parent wants their kid to succeed doing something that their kid loves, whether that be chess, ballet or football. But in the HBO documentary “State Of Play – Trophy Kids” we see a perfect example of parents of young athletes who take their enthusiasm to the extreme, and come off as overbearing, overzealous and downright abusive. It makes one wonder where the fun went when it comes to playing sports. We have all heard there’s no crying in baseball, but there’s a hell of a lot of crying in baseball, football, tennis and golf in this new documentary.
There’s a lot of talk about “effort” in the documentary, and how much effort and commitment these kids are making, and it’s astounding to me that none of them have snapped yet and refused to continue playing the sport their parents are so adamant about them excelling in. There’s no joy in what these kids are doing, at least none that we are shown in the movie. Golf dad André swears at his nine-year-old daughter Amari and calls her a bitch when she misses the shot. Basketball dad Steve talks about not working since the year 2000 so he could devote all of his time to training his son Derek to be the best on the court, including pumping him full of supplements to make him grow taller. The one mom featured on the show, Jamie, who trains her twin sons in tennis with a mixture of devout Christianity and new age platitudes, lecturing them on how it is God’s Will they become the best in the sport. The saddest story of all, as previously pointed out by our reader Jessieface, belongs to Justus, a 15-year-old aspiring football player who has a dad named Josh who is simply put, an emotionally abusive monster. For the majority of the movie we see Justus holding back tears as his father berates him and calls him an idiot and demands answers to questions that no kid should ever have to reply to, much less for simply not understand what his dad expects of him during a practice in the park.
My own kids don’t play sports competitively, so it’s hard for me to understand the whole mindset of wanting to raise a kid with the end goal for them to become a professional athlete or an Olympian or receive a sponsorship. I do know what it’s like to what your kids to succeed , I’m very interested in my own kids getting good grades in school, but I have never lectured them or yelled at them until they were on the brink of tears. I guess in my own life I have never seen any goals or greatness achieved with some of the tactics the parents in this movie use, withholding love until someone acts how I want, screaming at someone until they break down, forcing them to do something until they get it right. It’s an amazingly difficult movie to watch.
I’m sure State Of Play: Trophy Kids is an extreme example, I mean it has to be in order to make an interesting movie, but I think any parent who has a kid who plays sports can see a lot of similar behaviors in other sport’s parents, especially a dad like Steve who sidelines games and referees the whole thing by screaming at the players on the court and their own kid. I think we have all seen that parent, but probably not to the extreme of spending the amount of two Lamborghinis on coaches and training.
I think if your kid loves a sport there is nothing wrong with helping them excel at it. I think there is nothing wrong with a parent wanting their kid to have a good work ethic and to take a sport seriously and strive to be great at it. But I also think that if you get to the point where your kid is crying more than smiling when playing that sport you are probably taking your own parental investment too far. None of these parents were advocates or inspirations or even coaches, they were just bullies living their own failures vicariously through their kids. Under the guise of doing what’s best for them.
(Image: You tube)