When parental “support” goes overboard

I took advantage of a beautiful spring day on last weekend and wandered over to Chaparral High School to grab some lunch and watch a lacrosse game. My younger son, David, played on three state champions at Chaparral from 2002 through 2005 and is now a senior at Whittier College, where he is one of the captains of its lacrosse team. I still go to a few Chaparral games each Spring. I enjoy seeing the coaches and the parents of several graduated players who still show up to a few games a year like I do. Of course, few things beat sitting outside this time of year.

The game I saw was not competitive. The teams were badly mismatched. Chaparral led at halftime 13-2 and sat many of its starters in the second half. The other team continued to play hard, but it was clear from the first few minutes of the game what the final result would be.

As the second half started, the dad of one of the Chaparral players started complaining loudly that his son had not scored a goal that day, nor had even assisted on a teammate’s goal. The dad talked loudly how his son was one of the best players in the league and was being pursued by college coaches. “He can beat any defender anytime he wants to,” bragged the dad, “but he doesn’t care about his own statistics. It just drives me crazy.”

It was pretty clear, however, that the dad cared a lot about his son’s statistics. In fact, he seemed obsessed with them. “Why won’t he shoot?” the increasingly frustrated dad asked to no one in particular, oblivious to the fact that perhaps his son and his teammates were exhibiting some sportsmanship to a team they were beating badly.

As the dad continued on in this vein, I began to suspect that I was hearing only a small portion of what his son was hearing at home. I have run across several of these types of parents over the years. One guy used to leave 15-page hand written missives on the windshields of cars belonging to some of the high school football coaches. The notes, which were always on yellow legal paper, contained diagrams of plays that all featured his son as the ball carrier. The notes always had a lot of underlined words and exclamation points, just in case the reader failed to grasp the urgency and importance of what was being offered.

As the second half of last weekend’s game progressed and Chaparral was still not making much of an effort to score additional goals, the dad shared his frustration with his son’s play to another parent. “I try to get him motivated,” the dad said, “but I just don’t know if he even likes lacrosse.” Gee, I wonder why.

For more on this topic, see my article, The problems with pushy sports parents. — Dan Barr

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One response to “When parental “support” goes overboard

  1. Excellent column Dan.

    I used to coach youth soccer — third, fourth, fifth and sixth grades. It was amazing what happened on the sidelines. One parent told me I shouldn’t rotate in all the players, because the good players don’t get tired. I told him that wasn’t the point. He couldn’t understand why I would risk losing a fourth-grade city league soccer game in order to let the chubby girl play.

    Another time, both the coach for the opposing team and I were on the same sideline, because it was shady. The other coach, a red-headed guy, was screaming and yelling and coaching like a mad man — every detail, every play, every kick. Meanwhile, I was on the sidelines with my kids and we were cracking each other up with word games as we watched the soccer game. Midway through the game, the opposing coach practically fell over us as he ran along the sideline trailing the action. He saw what we were doing and he was stunned. And I have to say, he stopped screaming for the rest of the game. I remember that coach, but I don’t remember which team won the game.

    At that level, the kids just like hanging out with the other kids and eating cold oranges after the game.

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