I can't stop pacing. My kid is on the field. I can
barely watch. I pace. My stomach is killing me.
I offer up prayers that he'll do well. This is it - the big
game. I have been working with him all spring. I
pace...back and forth...back and forth. "Will you sit
It's my wife. I join her and a small group of her friends
who seem to be more interested in cross-stitching than in the
game. It is my child's first organized T-Ball game. He
We can go too far with sports and our kids. Much too far,
particularly at the elementary level. And I should
know. My wife and I have twins, a son and a daughter.
We love sports and the kids have been active in just about every
sport in their Catholic parishes and neighborhoods. It's
been great fun.
We like our kids to play sports. It's not only good for
their health; it gets them out into the sunshine. Sports
have a moral and spiritual dimension. In a properly run
league, kids learn about fairness, good sportsmanship, teamwork,
and fellowship. Sure, we know a kid involved in sports is
less prone to troubling behavior, particularly in the teen
years. But it is more than that. St. Paul uses the
analogy of progress in the spiritual life to a runner in a
race, In sports, kids learn a lot about life's meaning and
purpose beyond their own needs and then learn the importance of
the struggle itself in anything they do.
While I appreciate the importance of sports for kids, I also know
of something to be avoided. I'm talking about the dreaded
Sport Parent that lingers somewhere in each of us.
The obvious portrait of the Sport Parent is that person who does
everything at a children's game that I would like to do:
scream at umpires; lecture coaches; demean the opponents as well
as a teammate who makes a mistake; and generally embarrass my own
kids to no end.
Of course, a Sport Parent does not necessarily have to engage in
outrageous behavior. Attitudes we bring to the game can be
just as silly. I know them intimately. I've been
there. I've done that. From my experience, this Sport
Parent comes in two varieties: male and female. Let me
Male Sport Parent
there are exceptions, I've observed that the Male Sport Parent
All the other fathers are judging him
by his child's performance, because he judges them by their child's
performance. Another guy's kid lets a grounder roll through
the legs, Male Sport Parent thinks: "Jeez, fella, didn't
you teach the kid to get down on the ball?" His kid
strikes out. Male Sport Parent thinks: "All these
guys think I'm a wimp."
Childhood sports are a chance for
everybody to see how good he was then he was a kid by watching his
kid play the game. It does not matter if the kid is engaging
in a sport the Male Sport Parent never played. How the kid
performs is a judgment on the Male Sport Parent's childhood
All referees, umpires, and coaches are
incompetents who do it because they could never play the game well
themselves. Male Sport Parent could do a much better
job. If he only had the time.
It's not whether you win or lose, but
how well Male Sport Parent's child individually played the
game. If the choice is between a team win or a loss with his
kid playing great...well, there is no choice.
When his child goofs up, the kid has no
doubt done it on purpose to make Male Sport Parent look bad.
Female Sport Parent
close observation, I have found the the Female Sport Parent
Parents want her child to fail so that
their children will seem superior. Another mom's kid lets a
grounder through the legs, Female Sport Parent thinks: "I
just don't know why my child is on the bench while her child plays
so poorly." Her own child strikes out, Female Sport
Parent thinks: "Look at that smug expression on Mrs.
Jones. She thinks her child is so much better then mine."
The other team is the absolute epitome
of evil and poor sportsmanship for trying to play the game well and
win. They must be opposed in any possible way because,
obviously, their intent is to hurt her child's feelings.
Referees or umpires have clearly
conspired with the opponents in their attempt at victory. They
have also become the enemy.
Coaches ignore or forget her child's
existence and give more playing time - and attention - to every
other player on the team.
If her child goofs up, it is the
obvious result of poor coaching.
Some of these traits have been in me when I watched my kids
play. You might have seen them in yourself. It's human
nature. One of the quiet joys of parenting is basking in the
light of our child's achievements. And it hurts - really hurts
- when we see the disappointment or embarrassment when they miss the
shot, or make the mistake that allows the other team to win.
Yet, we can invest too much in our children's sports. We can
make it seem more important for them than it truly is. And far
more important to us then it truly is. Sports are one of the
playgrounds of life. Sports did not define who we were then we
were kids. How well our children pitch, shoot, catch, block,
kick, or run does not define the kind of person they are or will
be. Their skills certainly have nothing to do with the kind of
people we are and what we will be.
No matter what our children do in life, we have one really essential
goal for them: to become good, faith-filled adults.
Everything else is secondary. If we keep that in mind, we can
treat sports activities as thy should be treated: a small (and
not altogether necessary) part of our children's growth and