Sportability Help:  Information and Instructions

Ten Commandments for Sports Parents

The 'Ten Commandments for Sports Parents' is a recommended read for the parents of IFBL players.

 

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Ten Commandments for Sports Parents

1)  Don't act like a jerk in front of your kids:  Refrain from any behavior that is dumb or boorish.  It's good to keep in mind that generally anything you shout other than a cheer or words of encouragement will make you appear dumb and boorish.  Simple rule:  don't do anything at a game that you would not do in front of your child anywhere else.


2)  Sports algebra:  Sports are fun for us and our children in an inverse proportion to the importance we put on it.  The more serious our attitude toward our children's participation in sports, the less fun it becomes for the children and us.


3)  We know this is true, but let's act like we know it is true:  Our children will not play professional sports.  Our children will more then likely not win athletic scholarships to college.  Period.  Ninety-nine percent of all kids involved in sports at the elementary level do not have that kind of talent and never will, no matter how hard they work at it.  Enjoy what they can do and what they enjoy doing.  Forget our own fantasies.


4)  Know who is really out there:  We are not playing the game.  Our kids are not us.  How our children perform in an athletic endeavor has nothing to do with our own self-esteem or out own childhood dreams.  It is unfair for our children if we feel - and act - as if their athletic performance is somehow a reflection on us.


5)  Other people's kids are still kids:  Especially when children are young, remember that all the kids are trying to have some fun under difficult circumstances (namely, being watched by adults).  The other team is not some collective "enemy."  It is just a bunch of other kids in different uniforms.  Treat them as kindly as we want our children to be treated by other adults.


6)  Put up or shut up:  Leave the coaches alone.  Understand that they are usually volunteers who give up a great deal of personal time trying to help our kids.  They are not professionals and they will certainly make mistakes.  If we don't like the job they do, shut up and volunteer next year.  And, the exact same thing holds true for umpires and referees.

     There are, however, some coaches who watch too many professionals on television and decide to emulate them.  No coach has the right to treat children in a disrespectful or abusive manner.  Shouting or screaming at elementary kids taking part in sports should be against the law, or at least be punishable by public humiliation.  We have every right to pull our kids off a team when the coach behaves in such a fashion toward the children.  We also have every right to complain to league authorities.


7)  Take the pulse regularly:  Having fun?  Check regularly.  Especially at the elementary level, there is really only one reason to have children involved in sports:  because it is fun.  If the child is not having fun, you should seriously consider withdrawing.  Many parents argue with me on this.  They feel by joining a team, the child learns commitment and loyalty, as well as understanding that everything in life won't be easy.  They may have a point - I am not saying you should pull the kid immediately.  At time, it is just a matter of adjusting and it might take a few weeks.  But after that, I wonder.  Too often those concerns are excuses for the ego the parent has tied up in the child's activities.  If it has ceased to be fun for the child, and persists that way, what is the point of continuing?


8)  If you don't have something positive to say, don't say it:  The last thing our kids need is a detailed rerun after a game that explains all their mistakes and how to avoid them in the future.  If they did something well, celebrate it.  But don't make it a coronation - it's just a game.  If something bad happened and they want to talk about it, talk about it - but only to build the child up and put things in proper perspective.  Our attempts at amateur coaching will do no good, and are usually the last thing a child wants to hear from us after a rough game.  And they sure don't want to hear a lecture.  After any game - good or bad - most kids only want to know what's to eat.  And that's the way it should be.


9)  You are supposed to have fun, too:  If the "fun" for us depends soley on a win or on how wellour children have performed, then we have to reexamine our whole attitude.  At the end of the game - win or lose - both you and your child should have had a good time.  If that's not the case most of the time, then something is seriously wrong.


10)  Every kid is his or her own kid:  Some kids like sports, some don't.  Some kids are good at sports and some aren't.  And it doesn't depend on whether we liked sports or were good at sports when we were kids.  Every child is a unique gift from God.  We never want to define a child's worth by the level of skill on a playing field.

 

     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 down!"

     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 is six.

     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 explain.


The Male Sport Parent

While there are exceptions, I've observed that the Male Sport Parent believes:

  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 athleticism.

  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.


The Female Sport Parent

From close observation, I have found the the Female Sport Parent believes:

  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 development.

 

Ten Commandments for Sports Parents By Robert P. Lockwood

Copyright 2004 by Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.

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