Last weekend, I spent 12 hours (give or take) watching my son play in four baseball games. Yes, 12 hours — including multiple 45-minute drives to the baseball diamond, getting up at the crack of dawn (literally), and nervously biting my nails.
I also spent a good chunk of the time chugging copious amounts of coffee and questioning my life choices. Getting up before dawn to spend 12 hours watching 10-year-olds strike out and chase balls will do that to you, you know?
Sometimes, I think we sports parents might actually be just a teensy bit bonkers. Truth be told, sports aren’t for everyone, and some families opt out of organized sports entirely. For our family, though, it works. We’re all baseball fans, both of playing the game ourselves and watching the pros, so it’s become a family affair.
However, my husband and I have a fairly laid-back attitude about sports, and we don’t let sports — games or practice — rule our lives. We focus on the things organized sports teach our kids about teamwork, confidence, dedication, and diligence. For the most part, until now, organized sports have been a positive and enjoyable experience for our family.
But lean in close, fellow sports parents, because I’m about to tell you a secret: Ya’ll need to calm the fuck down.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t sacrifice my Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings because I expect my son to earn a full-ride college scholarship or play professional ball. Most of us don’t race from school to soccer practice, tossing Uncrustables to our kids in the backseat because our kids are on the winning team. We don’t sacrifice our time (and sleep!) so our kids can go to swim meets and hockey games and underwater basket-weaving tournaments because they will be the next Simone Biles or Derek Jeter. And we certainly don’t spend all this time, money, and energy because of some expectation of greatness or the thrill of the win or the hope that our kid will appreciate all this one day.
No. We do this for one simple reason — because it brings our kids joy. And that, in turn, brings us joy.
But you know what?
You, fellow sports parent, are sucking every ounce of joy right out of it. For the love of cleats and leotards, CTFD before you ruin it for everyone — including your children.
You seem nice enough. We make small talk and cheer for each other’s kids. You start off friendly, cheering for our team and clapping for good plays by the other team. But before long, you’re standing on the bleachers screaming at the ump because he called a strike when you know that it was very clearly a ball. This continues throughout the game. You’re angry, and you hate the umpire, and you’d do a better job, and the game is rigged.
For the love of God, just sit your ass down, dude. You’re embarrassing all of us.
Most of our experiences have been positive. My sons’ coaches are kind, supportive, and generous with their time. Lots of parents take my laissez-faire approach to sports, which is why your bizarre intensity stands out so much. You seem like a rational parent, who just wants their kid to have fun and learn about hard work and working together as a team, but then you start tossing your hat on the ground after a missed play, scream F-bombs from the bleachers, or laugh about the kid missing a catch in the outfield, and your douchebaggery starts to show.
You’ve lost me now. You’ve flipped from fan to fanatic, and you’re scaring all of us.
You tell me — in the sweetest of voices — that your son’s other team is just so bad that it’s hard to enjoy watching the games because his teammates are bringing him down. You laugh about the boy who picks daises and plays with ants in the outfield. You talk about how you want your son to “play his best” and the daisy-pickers are ruining it for him.
All the while I’m thinking, what the fuck ? These are 9- and 10-year-olds!
I’ll admit, part of me wonders if I’m the one who’s wrong. You say all this ridiculous shit in a sweet voice and your son is a good athlete, so maybe I’m the one who doesn’t get it? Do I just not understand competition? Should I push my kid a little more? Should I encourage them to be a little more ambitious?
The answer is NO. Full stop.
Look, I understand competitive sports. I swam competitively for 13 years, including a couple years at a Big 10 university. I understand hard work and sacrifice. I get competition. And this, my friends, is not it. This is madness. Absolute madness.
I hate to break it to you, but the odds of your son making it to the NBA or the MLB are slim-to-none. Your daughter probably won’t stand on the podium at the Olympics in 2032 either. And if you’re spending your time and money on athletics in the hopes of a financial return on your investment, you’re setting yourself up for a major market crash. That is not why kids participate in organized sports, and that cannot be why we participate in them either.
Would it be nice if my son were a good athlete? I suppose. But that isn’t what I hope for my kids in life, and it’s certainly not what I want them to get out of organized sports. My ultimate hope is that my kids are kind, good humans. That they pick people up and don’t just race past them. That they encourage others and know how to be a good teammate. That they understand the value of hard work and practice, but that they don’t base their self-worth on winning a game. Above all, I want them to find joy and create joy — whether that comes from hitting a home run or picking an amazing bouquet of daisies.
And above all, I want them to learn the number one rule of sports and life: DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE.
So calm the fuck down, sports parents. These are kids, and it’s seriously just a game. Keep your hat on your head, and your contain your douchebaggery. For your kid, and for the rest of us.