To The Sports Parents Who Were Mocking My Child

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 
Krista Long/ Getty Images

My husband and I are not sports people. I mean, sure, we can tell you what teams are played in the Super Bowl, but only when we sit down to watch the halftime show. Our family is active and while we enjoy entering local running races together as a family, our kids have tended to gravitate towards individual sports and activities rather than team sports.

And that’s fine with me.

Because our experience with team sports has been little, we’ve been spared the drama that comes with local recreation leagues and school sports teams. Stories about practice schedules from hell, parents who can’t behave on the sidelines, and kids who can barely keep up with their studies have largely kept me from encouraging my kids towards team sports.

But, last year, that changed when my daughter’s shyness started to interfere with her ability to relate to the other middle school girls. Tween girls can be a hard group to assimilate into and, for a bookish, shy girl who isn’t wild about boys, recess and social time can be difficult to manage. In discussing ways our daughter could come out of her shell and learn to be more assertive with her social interactions, she admitted that she thought playing a team sport would help. She asked if she could join a local basketball league because she’s always loved to play the game at school.

I signed her up for a local team and was delighted that her teammates welcomed her with open arms. They were patient with her as she learned and as I watched her excitedly chatting with her new friends at practice, I breathed a sigh of relief. We can do this, I thought.

But my excitement was shattered when we attended our first game.

I was shocked and appalled at how willing other patents are to disparage young kids on the court. I was disheartened to hear parents openly commenting about their child’s teammates with rude assessments of their abilities. And when I heard another mom make a nasty comment about the number my daughter was wearing, I was horrified.

WTF, Sports Parents?

No, seriously, what the actual fuck?

Sports Parents, have you forgotten that your child was once a beginner, too? Just because my daughter is learning the ropes of basketball at the age of 12 doesn’t make it any easier than when your kid was learning at the age of 5 (or birth, as some parents will lead you to believe). No, scratch that. It’s harder for her to learn because she has a bleacher full of judgmental parents (ahem) yelling that she’s doing a suck ass job. My beautiful, shy, brave AF daughter has to drown out the negative comments coming from the cheap seats and I’m going to have to ask you to leave the game, Sports Parents, if you can’t play nicely.

Lest you run the risk of morphing from the supportive fan I assume you want to be into an obnoxious AF fanatic you are at risk of becoming, let me break it down for you…

Before you yell at a kid from the sidelines about a bad play, consider that he might be battling crippling anxiety. You have no idea what it took for that young boy to show up and toe the line. It takes guts to show up and play.

If you feel the need to critique a kid at practice, perhaps ask yourself if there’s a way you can help that young girl master a new skill. If you are so good at basketball, bring your talent to the front of the room and share with the class, sir.

And, when your all-star kid gets pulled so that a benchwarmer can play, kindly, and I mean this sincerely, STFU. Your kid gets to hog the spotlight for the majority of the game. Let the bench warming kid bask in the glow of glory for the two minutes of play time he’s allotted. That kid has been patiently waiting all season, in your kid’s shadow, and has been rooting for your athlete from the sidelines. He doesn’t need the sound of you yelling, “Come on, coach, put my kid back in!” ringing in his ears while he’s trying to keep up.

I get it: committing to a sports team is time consuming. After the hours of driving your kid to practice and watching the long hours of hard work, you want to see your kid win. You want your kid to have the experience of working as a team and succeeding at a goal. It can be frustrating, I know, to see your kid excelling while another one is seemingly holding the team back.

But here’s the thing you seem to have left in the locker room, Sports Parents: this isn’t professional sports. It’s a recreation league. It’s middle school soccer. It ain’t the big time, okay? And, until a big talent scout is showing up with your kid’s name on a $ 40 million football contract, I’m going to have to ask you to take several seats when you pick on my kid — or any kid, for that matter — for not playing up to your expectations.

And, by the way? Your kid is playing on the same team as mine, so, really, let’s be honest here: the talent pool is pretty much the same. If your kid was really that good at sports, wouldn’t she be on some super fantastic team? Let’s cut the bullshit, shall we? My kid doesn’t want to play for the NBA. She just wants to feel a little less awkward in her teenaged skin during what we all know is the most awful time of growing up: the middle school years.

Sports Parents, because I’m new at this, I’m learning, too. And, I’d like to thank you for teaching me that I am never going to be a member of Team Mean Parent. Because that team’s skill set sucks.

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