Help, I am a parent

Her face was red and eyes watering. After 15 minutes of yelling at me she took a pause, a breath and said. “Thanks so much, you have been great about this!”  I was in a state of shock and nearly fell over. I knew Mary, she was a good parent, although a little too attentive; her need to lay her daughter’s outfits out for each day was well known. Her angel, Holly, was nonathletic, slightly over weight and was never gonna be a tennis player but had a smile that could make anyone’s day and listened intently to every word that left my mouth. I loved coaching her, she was a joy.

She was also not going to graduate from the class to the next level at the end of the semester with her friend and after receiving our letter and subsequent call to explain, the result had been an evening of tears. Now I had to deal with the fall out. Surprisingly, Mary’s rant was followed by this explanation. “Mike, I had to scream at someone! I didn’t know what to do and Holly cried all evening. I know she is not ready and you will move her up as soon as she is! Thanks again! Coffee?”

Luckily I understood. This wasn’t about changing things or moving Holly to a class that she didn’t belong in, it was about the pain Mary had felt watching her daughter cry and now having vented at me she at least felt that she had tried to go to bat for her child. Even though she knew it wasn’t going to change things.

This week I watched this video from the great people at the Changing the Game Project.

It’s something that we actually shared on our facebook page with a tag that kids should be at the center of everything. The parents behavior is shocking and sad but we like to delve deeper and came to understand this is not the whole story.

What you see when you watch this clip is parents behaving very badly of course but in just a few of these clips are parents also behaving in a primeval way. It’s not intelligent or rational but it might be more natural than we think. It’s the beast within us all as parents that most just keep very well caged. As a parent your core mission is to protect your child and make the world right for them. It’s wired in, and in moments of stress sometimes emotions take over from logic. Of course we are as shocked as anyone when we watch this video but the question with any behavior is always why.

Here are a list of fears that a sports parent has from our parent pressure presentation.

  • My kid will think I am a bad parent
  • My kid will not get the opportunities other kids do
  • My kid will experience incompetence, get embarrassed
  • My kid will get hurt
  • My kid will do something to embarrass me
  • Most of the time I have no idea if I am doing this thing right
  • My kid will hate me
  • Other People will think I am a bad parent

The parents on these videos are never to be condoned and rules and regulations both on and OFF court should make them quickly understand the consequences of their actions. However we should also ask ourselves, as sports coaches, what are we doing to help these parents deal with the pressure and the fears that are innately part of parenting a sporting child.

At a young age we forget that a child looks to their parent for everything. They are the taxi, the laundry, the chef, the psychologist and the fountain of all knowledge. The wide eyes of their child look to them for everything, every day and if they don’t deliver they have failed.  The pressure is on and for many it’s real. Of course many parents are trying to live vicariously through their child’s sporting endeavors and many have an inflated option of their child’s ability but many, many are usually balanced and intelligent people and just need our help.

As the saying goes prevention is better than cure so before you complain about another crazy sports parent ask yourself if you have done anything to help clear the fog before it rolls in. It’s time we admitted that every kids program has two customers, the child and the parent and if you really want make the playing field better for the child then it’s time we helped the parent in what is a very challenging role.

No one trains you to be a parent, and when you add the life changing challenges that sports bring to a child the roller coaster gets steeper and faster. Let’s all commit to helping the parent for what is coming round the bend. Maybe their child (and they) will thank you!

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