Sports, Kids, and Parents

I recently had a chance to observe the goings-on at a YMCA roller hockey game for 8 and 9 year-olds held in The Woodlands, Texas. Be forewarned, I’m the parent of one of the visiting team’s players. However, as our team won at least 10-0, I lost count of the goals scored, so it’s hardly a case of sour grapes.

The gist of this diatribe is to illuminate the unpleasant behaviors of the parents, players, and even coaches at the game. To those familiar with the YMCA’s programs, it will not surprise anyone to note that the game started late. The previous game ran over and, as I watched it, was dominated by the mother of one boy who, while not a coach, or judging from her surplus girth, a recent participant in any sporting event, shouted instructions to the players, particularly her apparently long-suffering son. But all things considered, she was not truly offensive, just irritating to players and fans alike in her enthusiasm to live vicariously through her son.

In our game, once it began, the rout was on quickly. And it didn’t take long for the opposing coach to start shouting encouragement to his team. This is a tactic that virtually never works in a game situation, mind you. Corrections can be made between periods and in time-outs, but rarely during play, particularly at this level. Regardless of their effectiveness, he continued his attempts. And once again, for the most part, his exhortations were instructional and valid. However, as the slaughter continued, he repeatedly used the phrase “Get physical!” in challenging his team. This is inappropriate and dangerous at this age and skill level, as his own son found out when, literally whipped into a frenzy by his dad/coach, his attempt at physical play ended badly for him. Nice work, coach.

What that then the end of my social observations? But that it had been so, perhaps I would not have left this affluent suburb so disgusted with its inhabitants.

My view blocked by parents moving rudely in front of the seating areas, I moved myself to an unobrusive spot where I encountered my next obnoxious sports parent – the guy who’s kid doesn’t play as hard or as well as he would. Poor Johnny (not his real name) was harangued by his father for the entire 36 minute game. Nothing the kid was doing was good enough for his dad, who left him know about it in no uncertain terms. Had he been the father of a boy on our team, I might have asked to coach to talk to him. As it was, Johnny will likely grow up angry and depressed and vandalize the neighborhood to redeem his diminished manhood because of my failure to correct his father’s boorish behavior. True, Johnny wasn’t very good at the game, but he wasn’t terrible, either. Nice game, dad.

Returning to the opposing coach’s son, Jimmy (not his real name, either) resented his team’s getting their tails whipped and was the only kid on either team to exhibit poor sportsmanship, smashing his stick to the ground as if it were a splitting maul after each goal against his team. After about the sixth or seventh incident, his father finally called him on it. There’s never an excuse for poor sportsmanship in any age group, but particularly not in a young, impressionable league, and doubly so from a coach’s son. Not long after, Jimmy would try to “get physical” with another player and have to leave the game in tears. His inappropriate behavior should have been corrected much earlier on. Perhaps he wouldn’t have had to learn the lesson of his bad behavior so harshly.

Finally, we’ve reached the pinnacle of my experience: the bratty kid who has no real parents. Billy (need I say it?) was perhaps the only decent player on his team. After the game was out of hand, he skated over next to me and asked his dad for a drink. Dad obliged, whereupon Billy, unable to get a proper fluid flow through his mask, began to scream at his father. I shudder even today at the consequences of such behavior when I was a child. But Billy was the clear winner in the exchange, his hapless parent, dad, giving the petulant brat what he demanded instead of what he deserved.

I can’t wait until these children reach maturity. Perhaps they will see through the fallacies in the way they were raised, but more than likely not. As Keaunu Reeves’ character says in the movie Parenthood, “You need a license to have a dog, but any butt-reaming asshole can be a father.”

Farmers Insurance Group: No Class

Farmers Insurance Group is leaving the Texas homeowner’s insurace market. Read the story in the Houston Chronicle.

In a move typical of the industry, the company has decided to not renew coverage for Texas after a recent rash of mold claims. Insurance is a simple business: collect premiums and avoid claims. After working the system for years, Farmers now wants to “skip town” as the claims begin to come in.

In fact, there may be nothing Texans can do about Farmers’ betrayal except this: boycott their other offerings. Why buy auto insurance from a company that won’t offer you homeowners coverage?

Estrada Judicial Fight

President Bush has nominated another highly qualified candidate for a judicial post. By all accounts, Miguel Estrada’s a nearly ideal candidate. Read about the upcoming confirmation battle on

Very likely this will erupt into another idealogical, party-line embarrassment in the Senate. Let’s move past our petty party politics. This man is qualified to do the job. Confirm him, senators, and move on to the real business of running this country.

Ted Williams’ Will

One more case of “Only in America”, this time in regards to Ted Williams, the last man to ever hit .400 in a baseball season. His family can’t decide if Ted wanted to be frozen or cremated, so they are in a legal catfight over the issue. Read about it on

Me, I never knew the Splendid Splinter, but it seems easy enough to decide. Either there are documents to override the will or there aren’t. Simple. But to the greater issues, I’d rather be frozen. Who knows? Maybe you’d get to see the future. In fact, finances permitting, I plan to do just that.

As for Bobby-Jo Williams Ferrell, if she’s foolish enough to spend her last dime bickering over the issue, let her go bankrupt. Her father is gone and it doesn’t matter what happens to his corpse. Not surprisingly, few if any fans have fallen for her inane pleas for money.

Clown to be Executed At Last

Texas will execute a convicted child killer tomorrow. This monster who masqueraded as a clown for a living killed two pre-teen girls in 1992. Read the re-cap in the Houston Chonicle. The picture of those two angels will make you teary-eyed, guaranteed.

Five will get you ten that tomorrow on KUHF’s morning show, the anchor will raise a modulated eyebrow at the rashness of the Texas justice system, cadence implying a lack of morality in our state. Sad then, that this piece will receive a much smaller audience than the aforementioned radio show.

Rex Mays lived ten years longer than the little girls he murdered. He deserves what is waiting for him tomorrow. Anyone who believes differently is, quite frankly, a part of the rot in the fabric of America’s society.

Teen Robber Sentenced

By Marc Moore at 9/24/2002 8:01:54 PM A Houston teenager was sentenced to 35 years in state prison for aggravated robbery of a woman this spring. Read the summary in the Houston Chronicle.

There will be those who bemoan this stiff sentence; however, minors who commit violent crimes serves the same punishment as adults. Face it: these kids know exactly what they are doing and decide to do it anyway. Furthermore, many count on the fact that they are minors in calculating whether to do the crime. Stellar job, jury.

Give Bikes Room

Houston is a terrible place to ride a bike. Air quality is terrible. Drivers are boors. And the bike lanes are a joke. Read Thom Marshall’s July 5th column in the Houston Chronicle.

It should embarass the mayor and county officials that with so much new construction going on that very little is being done to improve the way for the family bike. Frankly, Houstonians don’t care. They tool around, the fattest bunch of steers in the nation, in their bloated, air-conditioned pickups without a care for those who can’t afford a car or simply want a little “fresh” air and exercise.

The least the county could do in laying new roads is create a five-foot wide strip of shoulder for bikers to use. But no, that apparently is asking too much. Houston has plenty of money to arrest hundreds of layabouts at K-Mart, but nary a dollar to pave a bike lane on a road they are building anyway. Houston: it’s a charming place to live.

Student Athlete Deaths

Two high school athletes died suddenly yesterday. By all accounts, the boys were exemplary young men. Read the story in the Houston Chronicle.

Surprising deaths are a phenomenon that seems to be on the rise in the US. Are we pressing kids to be too good, too fast? In these recent cases, preliminary evidence indicates otherwse.

In my experience, some twenty years gone by now, athletic practices are frequently grueling and beyond the capability of all but the most fitness-dedicated adult. However, as a well-conditioned young man, I, like most of today’s young athletes, had no problems in completing them.

Nonetheless, it would not offend me to have the intensity of high school sports toned down a notch, particularly in practice. Football coaches will cry foul, claiming their tradition of “two a day” practices are a necessity; however, there is no merit in this position. One practice per day is ample for any sport at the high school level.

Steven Wayne Smith

Supreme Court candidate Steven Wayne Smith is hardcore in his distain for Affirmative Action. Read about it in the Houston Chronicle.

Normally I take this as a sign of good judgment in a candidate. AA is nothing if not an unnecessary, demoralizing, and divisive crutch for minorities.

Still, Smith’s language gives me pause. Phrases like “Minorities go to a school that they’re underqualified for and it just pools up through the whole system” make one wonder if he isn’t pursuing a program of racism.

At the same time, Smith makes excellent points such as an ideal environment would be one in which “crucial distinctions aren’t always about black, Mexican-American and Anglo.” He is, at least, an interesting, thoughtful candidate.