My oldest child is 14. I still remember the day we inserted her first tiny shin guards (pink!) into her tiny little soccer socks (pink!) and laced up her tiny little cleats (black – but on sale!). She was 3. Two more babies were born and – between the 3 of them – Saturday morning soccer has given way to something just about every day of the week. Through the years they’ve competed in soccer, lacrosse, baseball, track, cross-country, flag football, basketball, cheerleading and nordic skiing. This means that my garage looks like the inside of a Dick’s Sporting Goods…if Dick’s were catastrophically dirty and disorganized. I regularly scream “who took off their cleats?? For the love of God, put them back on! I can’t BREATHE!!!” while driving down the highway.
Sports are great for kids for lots of reasons. But for parents? Sometimes that’s a different story. I just did the math and at this point, my husband and I have logged thousands of hours at sporting events of one kind or another. And along the way we’ve seen some THINGS. Things we shouldn’t have seen. Things we can’t un-see. Once in a while….well….it’s been one of us. (We don’t need to worry about which one…but it’s not him.)
I understand, I really do. I’m competitive, too. But through the years, I’ve started to mellow out. I don’t yell anymore (I stopped the day my daughter started yelling back)…and I don’t coach from the sidelines (as it turns out, I don’t know what I’m talking about). But lest you think I’ve mellowed completely, I still have a tell. As I’m sitting in my canvas chair, I frequently lean, shift my weight and sometimes…try to kick the ball. AS IF I THINK I’M PLAYING. FROM MY CHAIR.
For those of you who may have similar issues…I’ve put together a handy little guide on how to identify if you’ve crossed the threshold from “supportive and enthusiastic parent” to “that parent”. As in “Oh, Dear God…I can’t sit next to that parent. He/She is nuts.”
Here are some steps to help you determine if you’ve crossed the line…and tips on what to do if you have:
- If your child is not yet in high school and you are talking to me about their “D1 Potential” and looking for scouts during the game, please log onto Google and do a little research. Because maybe…but the road is long and the odds are slim. The one certainty? There are no college scouts at a middle school game.
- If you find yourself yelling at another person’s child for a mistake they’ve made on the field, look down. Are you wearing the coaches shirt? No? Then please pick yourself up and take yourself to a Starbucks. Order decaf.
- If you are screaming at your child while the child is at practice…you need to take a walk. Listen, I’m not going to wonder aloud why you’re at practice to begin with. I’m going to assume that you’ve had a long day and you’re enjoying the fresh air. Maybe you’re chatting with a friend. That’s cool. However, if you find yourself critiquing and yelling and DEFINITELY if you find yourself jumping up and down with flecks of foam at the corners of your mouth…its time to go. This is a side of you that no one needs to see.
- If the ref gives you a warning during a child’s sporting event….go wait in the car and think about what you have done. I’m sure the ref was wrong, that’s really not the point. To a casual observer, it might appear that you’re taking this a little too seriously. And then there’s the whole ‘respect for authority’ thing we keep harping on at home. Tough to sell when you’ve just gone toe to toe with the guy in stripes. Besides…not once have I ever seen a call reversed because of a parent’s tirade. (Ok…yes I have…several times, actually. But still…)
- If you find yourself making disparaging comments about the athletic ability of a child…go directly to the religious institution of your choice. This is not your best self. And here’s the thing I’ve noticed through the years: That kid who’s a weak spot on defense and not very aggressive? Next year, she’s going to own this field. That huge kid on attack who’s the best player on the team? Within 2 years the rest of the team is going to catch up to him in size, and 4 of them will surpass him in speed.
Besides…the same kids who can’t hear you yelling from the next room CAN hear a whispered comment from across a field in the middle of a thunderstorm.
…And you don’t want to be that guy.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m on my way to a game. I have some chair-soccer to play…