MINOT, N.D. — What is it about sports which bring out the absolute worst in some parents?
We’ve all seen the headlines, and sometimes the videos too.
Parents brawling at a fourth-grade basketball game in Oklahoma. A half-dozen grown men punching each other at a game played by 7-year-olds in Ohio. A man firing a gun and chasing a referee at a game in Arkansas.
These may be extreme examples, but you can show up at any random sporting event in our region and witness parents taking things too far.
I got a taste of this recently.
My daughter is playing organized basketball for the first time. I attended her first game just recently. She was a little nervous beforehand. The usual stuff. She thought she would trip and fall, and people would laugh at her, or she’d forget what she was supposed to be doing and earn the ire of her teammates.
I told her what I think parents are supposed to say. You show up. You try hard. If you err, learn from it, but you’re really just supposed to have fun.
When we got into the gymnasium, we were confronted with parents who feel very differently.
Dads were pacing the sidelines as self-appointed coaches, shouting often contradictory directions to the players and accomplishing little more than confusing the kids who, as a result, couldn’t hear their flustered coach.
There were moms in the stands, heckling the officials.
At one point, my son needed to go to the bathroom. In the hallway outside the gym, we witnessed a mom almost shouting at her child about her play on the court. This kid, in the eyes of her mom, was passing too much and not shooting enough. She wasn’t “crashing the boards.”
The volume of her loud-mouthed instruction made it echo down the halls and into the bathrooms where my son and I got an earful.
When we came out of the bathroom, her poor daughter was red-faced, almost near tears.
Even my son, who is 4 years old and not typically all that perceptive, asked why that mom was so mean.
I wish I had a good answer because basketball is a game. It’s supposed to be entertaining. A way to make friends, and maybe learn some life skills having to do with teamwork and responsibility and effort.
Even if you think your sixth grader is going to turn pro one day, is belittling the referee or browbeating the coach going to help? Across the nation, referees and coaches are quitting youth sports over abuse from parents.
A recent survey of high school coaches found 60% of coaches said they’ve had to talk to parents about their behavior. Some 58% said they’ve thought about quitting over it.
We’re lucky to have those who stick it out.
Do you suppose these parents, who are so thoroughly overbearing when it comes to their children’s athletic performance, are similarly vigilant when it comes to academic success?
I suspect not.
You have to wonder if the kids wouldn’t have more fun if the parents stayed at home.
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.