It's back to school time and parents everywhere are frantically signing their kids up for afterschool activities and worrying about how to pay for and fit flute, drama and soccer games into their packed lives. One question I am repeatedly asked is, "how can I possibly go to Yvonne's gymnastics practice, Will's football game and Jake's violin lesson when they're all scheduled at the same time in different parts of town?" My answer: You don't need to go to all their games. In fact, maybe we'd all be better off if parents didn't go to kids sporting events. The below is insight from my latest book.
Youth sports bring out the worst in parents. Some parents are aggressive and obnoxious. You know them. You've watched them from the sidelines screaming at the kids, the refs, the other parents. The news is filled with cautionary tales: the parent who took off at full tilt to tackle a kid from the opposing soccer team for a perceived dirty hit on his son; the parent who took a hockey stick to bludgeon a dad from the rival team after jawboning in the stands; the mother of a cheerleader who murdered her daughter's rival. Yes. They are extremes. But the dirty little secret is we all get a little nutso when it comes to our kids. It's primal. We're wired that way.
Most of us keep it under wraps. But it's insidious. It comes out in subtle ways. One of our kids pitched for her school softball team. Her team was never very good. They won some. They lost some. I went to every single game. Her freshman year in high school, she was the starting pitcher. Over time she became the only pitcher. She was the woman. I was so proud of her composure, her competence, her cool under fire. I loved watching her play. I never had the courage or skill to be like her. But, in retrospect, I should have cried foul. The softball motion is unnatural. Bad for your arm. The school should never have let her be the sole pitcher. Why didn't I speak up? Who knows? I didn't want anyone else to be the starter, I loved watching her play, I was thrilled each time they gave her the game ball. What was I thinking?
The more I consider parents on the sidelines the more I wonder if they should be banned from everything but the occasional game or tournament. Organized sports should be organized for kids to PLAY and they should be playing with other kids for their own enjoyment and development. They should not be playing under the watchful, judging and often-confused eyes of parents.
What do you think?