Parental “Guidance”


JJ Stoen, Head Columnist

In the world of athletics, parents are crucial to a child’s commitment to their sport. Parents drive their kids to practices, pay for equipment, and are often the number one cheerleader. At any sporting event, you will likely see a crowd of passionate parents screaming from the sideline, behind the blocks, or in the stands. The most stereotypical are the “soccer moms” and “baseball dads” who, like any parents, want to see their child succeed. The trouble is, some people will do anything to achieve this “success” for their kid.

The moments that make me worry the most at sporting events happen after “blown calls” –– when an official messes up a call or misses something in the game or sport and fails to call anything entirely. Examples of these kinds of calls are unseen contact in football, inaccurate calls from the umpire at the baseball plate, or even athletes strategically drowning each other in water polo, away from the watchful eyes of coaches and officials. Specifically in baseball, parents go absolutely ballistic over a close call at the plate. They might scream until they are purple in the face, throw their chili dog at the umpire, or even leave the game in frustration (often not voluntarily, as actions like this typically lead to an ejection). Not only is unnecessarily unfair toward the umpire, these explosions cause embarrassment for their child, and make other parents and coaches uncomfortable. Society frowns upon –– but accepts –– when a child throws a temper tantrum, be it in sports or because they didn’t get the biggest slice of cake, they are children after all. But when an adult does this? We tell them to grow up and find some maturity.

Sports should –– number one –– be enjoyable and fun. Secondly, they should be a safe environment to make mistakes and learn and grow as people. This is especially true for younger athletes. Unfortunately, sometimes overbearing parents can ruin the game for their child. As a competitive swimmer, I have seen countless examples of this at the various swim meets I participated in. While I am now 17, in the past few years I have witnessed kids as young as eight accosted by their parental guardian for not swimming fast enough or for losing a race. The child, who barely comes up to their mom or dad’s hip, stands there dripping while the screams and saliva beat into their face. Who would find that fun? Swim meets and other sports in general are for the kids to improve, have fun, and develop as people. Being yelled at for losing or not improving –– ene though you tried your best ––  is not only not fun, but what kind of message does it send to your child? What kind of person are you going to turn them into? If your young athlete needs feedback, leave it to the coaches. Otherwise, leave them alone to have fun and make mistakes, it’s all part of growing up and learning.  

How do we solve this problem of overbearing parents? It’s simple—just let your kid play the darn game. Praise them for their achievements, don’t drag them down for their mistakes. Most importantly, have fun with your child. Sports are supposed to be fun and a way for the child to grow. Not everything has to be a competition, especially when it’s athlete versus parent. You are both on the same team, remember that.