Yes, we’re all techno-geeks. We can’t get enough of our electronic gadgets. But eventually, we all have to pull away from our computers long enough to do something else. Well, most of us do. Okay, some of us. If you’re a parent, it’s likely that you get pulled away fairly often. Kids have a funny way of expecting to eat a few times a day. And if you’re a parent whose children are involved in sports, there’s even a regular schedule you’re supposed to follow.
As a sports mom, I’ve got some street cred. Four athletic kids (one’s an All-American!), plus a coach for a husband – that all counts. And while volleyball is my family’s “thing,” we sure aren’t a one-sport bunch. Oh no. Football, basketball, track, cross country, wrestling, soccer, bowling (yep, that’s a “sport”), baseball, softball… and that doesn’t even include their “fine arts” endeavors. Oh yes, I’ve put in my time in the bleachers.
So, here is some offline advice for sports parents. You’re welcome.
First tip: Go. Your kid wants you there, even if he feigns disinterest in your presence, or acts like you are an embarrassment. (Bonus tip: If you’re sporting a jersey with his picture on it or waving a big foam finger – any finger — you ARE an embarrassment.) Learn the appropriate things to call out. If you don’t know the rules and intricacies of the game, keep your mouth shut until you do, except to be encouraging. Take your cues from the more seasoned parents, but remember…
Second tip: Most parents are idiots when their kids are playing sports. Don’t let them drag you into their lunacy. If it’s more fun to sit somewhere else, then sit somewhere else. But don’t sit with the other team’s parents, because they’re even bigger idiots.
Third tip: Be kind to the refs. They really don’t hate your kids. They’re probably calling the game the way they actually see it. Sometimes they get it wrong, but games are almost never lost because of bad calls, even if it seems that way. Even if a “bad call” happens at the end of the game, there were still plenty of missed opportunities, turnovers, or incidents of poor execution that might have changed the outcome.
Here’s a bonus tip about basketball, when your team is playing: If your team is on defense, and one kid bumps another, you’ll see it as an offensive foul. If your team is on offense, you’ll see it as a defensive foul. You just can’t help it… you see it as the other team’s fault. Keep that in mind before you stand up and scream about the inequity of it all. And remember: It’s a lot more fun to quietly mock the parents from the other team who are standing and screaming about the inequity of it all if you haven’t already engaged in that behavior.
Tips for immediately after the game: Ask your child what she felt she did well, and what she thinks she can improve on. Find a skills-related thing to compliment your kid about, and a character-related thing to compliment her about. Save your skills critique for later, and save your character critique for later. BUT! Be sure to see my next two paragraphs regarding the critiques.
About the skills critique: Think it over before you choose to discuss skills and technique. Talk to the coach if you’re not sure about something — they might be teaching a method that you don’t know. It is okay to show your child another way, but do your best to not undermine the coaches, or sabotage their system.
And about saving the character critique for later: Get to it, but not immediately after the game, when emotions may be running high. But don’t make the mistake of never addressing issues you see in their character. If you’re lucky, the coach might help in that area, but ultimately, it’s your problem. If you disagree with the coach, talk to him — don’t tell your kid to do something different than the coach tells him to do. (Example: we taught our kids to put out a hand and help up an opposing player if someone got knocked down — one coach didn’t allow that, because he thought it could start a fight, or put the kids in danger of being punched.) Whatever you’re noticing — back-talking the coach, rolling eyes at the ref, laughing at the other team, not being encouraging to teammates – address it with your child, and work with them to overcome these things.
And my top tip: Remember why you’re doing this. It’s not about building an athlete; it’s about building your child’s character. Except for a few very rare exceptions, our kids are never going to “go pro.” But they are going to have to function in the real world, where there are wins and losses, fairness and inequity, good skills and poor skills. What they learn about managing those things will be far more important than anything they can learn about a sport.
– Susie South | Chief Moderator | Metaverse Mod Squad, Inc.