“You need to lay off your kids!”(he was referring to my yelling at my kids during a water polo game) is what an eighteen year old lifeguard told me several years ago at our community pool. That statement although very unwelcome at the time (what does this young punk know about my kids and parenting?) was a HUGE wake up call for me and thankfully led me to make some important changes.
You see I am terribly ashamed to admit this but I was one of those horrible sports parents. You know the ones I’m referring to… screaming almost steadily through the entire game, coaching from the sidelines, throwing my arms down in despair.
I would encourage all the other kids on the team, but my own kids would hear my aggravated tone to hustle more and push harder. I didn’t stop when the buzzer rang and the game ended, in the car I would go over the game and tell them what they did wrong and how they could have done more. I was the definition of a bad sports parent. Didn’t really matter the sport: hockey, soccer, waterpolo or football.. whatever my kids got involved in, I would get WAY too involved.
I’ve always been a competitive person when it comes to sports. I didn’t however think that I would feel so wound up about a seven year old’s hockey game. I can’t really explain it but it’s Jekell and Hydeish. I’d leave my son’s dressing room by blowing him a kiss and a big thumbs up, minutes later I’m losing my mind because he’s not first on the puck. It was like I had no control…It was ugly. I confess with shame to having made both of my kids cry after a game by telling them they didn’t play well enough. Who does that??
Believe it or not I’ve seen worse behaviour from other parents.
I’ve seen parents yelling out curse words, putting down children that aren’t even theirs.
I’ve seen physical altercations in the stands more than once. Just last week a father at a waterpolo game threatened another parent who was cheering on her team that he was going to “shove that horn down your throat”. Security was called. Kids learn from adult behaviour, we need to exercise some control and keep it in check!!
It’s not about winning for me, I didn’t and still don’t care if my kids teams win or lose, of course it’s nice to win but that’s not my focus. I don’t care if they don’t score a goal all season. I think it’s always been about effort. Competitive sports teams nowadays require such a huge financial and time commitment that to spend so much time and money to watch my daughter or son not try their hardest would just send me to that bad (nobody wants to sit near you in the stands) sports parent place.
It’s been almost four years since that lifeguard put me in my place, my kids were only 9 and 7 years old at the time. I was putting a lot pressure on some pretty young athletes. I’m not saying I still don’t want to see them give it their best effort because I still do. I want them to try hard in everything they do in life.
I want them to know that bad games happen but as long as they are having fun, trying their best, getting physical exercise, respecting their opponents, teammates, coaches and officials then they are winning because that’s what minor sports is about.
I don’t think kids need to be coddled when it comes to sports and competition but they are getting enough pressure from their coaches and teammates.
A few things I have learned:
- Screaming at your kids isn’t helping, it’s counterproductive you are only putting more pressure on them.
- They don’t need to be told that they didn’t have a stellar game or they made a mistake, they already know.
- Until your kids are well into their teens they are playing for fun. They may want to win but they want to go for ice cream after the game, hang out with their teammates and just play the game.
- They want you to be proud of them.
- Your kids want and need you to watch and support them.
These days you’ll find me in the stands beaming with pride, smiling, applauding and rooting my kids on. On the car ride home I let them tell me how they felt the game went, if they ask my opinion I respond by putting a positive spin on my answer. This mom is happily choosing to be my kids BIGGEST fan.