May 23, 2024

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.”


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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