I am heading into my fourth year as a sports parent. Mostly, our experiences have been a lot of fun and I’ve met some wonderful parents who share our attitude about the reasons our young children are playing sports. Of course, like all things, there are a few bad apples and their sour attitudes can easily color the entire season. The worst offense I have discovered so far are the parents are are very obviously there because they are obsessed with winning.
Naturally, the goal of any sport is to win. However, that is not how it should start out. At first, a child just needs to learn how to play as part of a team. How to be generous and help someone who needs it. To not hog the ball and that sometimes, it’s better to pass than shoot. They need to learn sportsmanship and of course, the rules and skills for whatever sport they are playing. What they don’t need to concern themselves with in those first years is winning.
To that end, we have yet to be part of a team that publicly displays the score. Our daughter’s coach pitch baseball team this year kept score between the coaches but not on a scoreboard for all to see. This was so they could know standings to go into play-offs. The kids were never told the score during the game, only if the team had won or lost at the end. I thought this was a great idea as a 6-7 year old might fixate too much on winning rather than learning the basics of the game. Apparently, others did not agree with me.
We had a handful of parents from our baseball team that made a weekly habit of complaining among themselves about how “boring” it was that the score and winning or losing was not a big part of the game. They made sure to keep score themselves and discuss the skills of our players as they headed up to bat. It really bothered me because the entire point is for the kids to get comfortable- to learn the game and become confident in their skills. I did not understand these parents and their fixation on who was winning. Sadly, I saw by the end of the season that one of these obnoxious parents might be pushing their child away from baseball with their crap attitude (he is our only player not returning for Fall Ball)- the dad would always go behind the fence when his son was up to bat and make comments to the coach who was pitching to him about whether he needed to throw higher, lower, faster, slower in order for his son to hit. The kid is seven and you’re heckling his coach and nagging at him while he’s trying to hit- are you kidding me?
I know we will be dealing with annoying sports parents for years to come as both of our kids play on a few teams each but at the ages they are now, I find it especially grating. These parents need to pull their heads out of their asses and realize that for kids this age, winning is not the point. Believe me- I am the last person to sugarcoat things for a child and I think participation trophies are ridiculous and we shouldn’t treat them with kid gloves- they need to be tough and work hard. I just deeply believe that they need to learn to love these sports so that someday, when a game doesn’t go so well, they don’t throw in the towel and give up. Even if it feels shitty at that moment, they will remember those first few years where the only concern was having fun and being a good team player. Hopefully, it’s those first memories that keep our kids healthy and involved in sports for the rest of their lives.