At any children’s activity, one will always find them – those parents who get a little too excited or upset about what is occurring on the field. They are the ones to put make-up on their four or five-year-olds for various dance or cheerleading events. They are the ones to buy top-of-the-line sporting equipment for their child’s first season playing a sport, force their child to attend every between-season sporting camp and will often be seen on the sidelines belittling a coach and/or the referees on their inability to coach or referee a game. Who are they? They are the parents that live vicariously through their children, and their ability to ruin a sporting event knows no bounds.
I had the distinct pleasure of experiencing this first-hand with my son’s club soccer team this year. In fact, there were several parents of this nature on the team that made sitting on the sidelines a brutal affair. We had one family that told their child to ignore the coaches’ instructions during the game. He did just that, and his teammates’ frustrations were clearly visible to those of us sitting on the sidelines. We had another one that would encourage their child’s ranting and raving after each game, putting the blame for each loss on everyone but him rather than on the team as a whole. This particular child was eventually asked to leave the team because he had managed to antagonize every single one of his teammates. We also had parents belitting other players on the field, completely ignoring the fact that the other players’ parents were sitting within earshot. This resulted in several missed games by parents who were understandably upset by what was stated about their child. The coup-de-grace though was when we had these same parents, the ones who belittled and ignored the coaches, attempt to force the coach off the team…two games before the end of the season. All this for ten-year-old soccer.
I will never understand why parents are willing to go to such lengths to act like this even while they are spouting the positive effects of learning to play as a team. Do they not see their own actions as counterproductive to such positive effects? How can our children learn to play together and learn selflessness on the field when they are playing with teammates who are being taught the exact opposite by their parents? Does this mixed messaging do more harm than good?
Granted, this behavior has always been around, and I seriously doubt that my ranting here will change anything. I remember it when playing on sports teams while I was growing up, and I can clearly remember similar issues all those years my brother played baseball (he played through college). Yet, what purpose does this behavior serve other than to create an antagonistic relationship between child and parent? For, can a child ever live up to their parents’ expectations in these scenarios?
As sports gets more and more competitive at a younger and younger ages, I cannot help but believe we are creating a generation of children that are learning that they can bully, argue and ignore their way to success. If not that, then their inflated sense of their self-worth, as boosted by parental expectations, will run smack into the wall that is the workforce, leaving them completely incapable of coping with the real world. By trying to make our child the next great athlete, instead we are creating the next great bully. Even worse, we are creating a scenario where no matter what the child ends up doing, it will be a disappointment to the parents because it wasn’t what they envisioned on the sidelines years ago. It seems as if we are dooming our children to a lifetime of disappointments and misery, either through this misguided parental relationship or through the child’s own expectations for his or her future. How incredibly sad is it that in an effort to relive childhood dreams, parents are willing to doom their own child’s future?