Parents can be jerks at sporting events!

My son’s on a local lacrosse team and I think we’re both enjoying it quite a bit. It’s a great sport for boys with lots of running, bashing into other boys, swinging sticks around and general physicality while they all wear padding and helmets to keep them reasonable safe from each other. He’s 12 and more than once he’s told me “I just want to really check some other boy hard!” on the way to practice or a game. Of course, he’s fairly mild-mannered on the field, but I like that he can talk tough and actually do something physical in a safe, supervised environment.

On Saturdays we go to league games and that takes us all over the state of Colorado. Previous weeks we’ve been lucky that they’ve been 20 minutes or so from home, but last weekend we ended up driving 90 minutes each way to Parker, basically southeast of Denver, and found ourselves in a very different community, more rural and (seemingly) conservative than the liberal bastion of Boulder and its adjacent towns. Which was fine, it’s fun to explore the state, except for the parents who were complete jerks from the sidelines. sports parents on the sidelines

One Dad who was sitting about 20 feet from us really should have been the team coach because he was a bloody expert on everything lacrosse, constantly hollering at his son Wyatt to do this, do that, watch for this, don’t do that, pay attention, he’s behind you, he’s behind you, shoot! shoot! take it all the way! as the rest of us had to suffer through his ego-stroking, child-spirit-crushing sideline coaching.

Lacrosse has a five minute half-time during games and when that time came around, this same jerk of a Dad stood up and went onto the field with his own LAX stick and gloves, and impressed himself showing off how well he could flip/scoop up the ball off the grass.

“Ahh,” I thought, “he’s a former player. No wonder he’s so convinced he knows the game better than the coach…”

And, before someone posts that this is yet another problem us men have, I’ll observe that this is not limited to dads. Indeed, there was a mom sitting on the other side of us also constantly coaching her son at maximum volume, even adding some belittling comments about players on our team like “get 92! get 92! you can take him!”

Now there’s nothing wrong with yelling “great play!” “good defense!” and clapping on a play well done, or even yelling something like “way to go, joey!” on a goal, but I’m not complaining here about supportive parents on the sidelines, I’m talking about annoying sideline coach parents who just don’t get that they aren’t the coach, they’re the parent.

A part of me wants to just go and tell them to shut the f- up!  but it’s quite apparent in that moment why parents get into fights at their children’s sporting events: they’re pumped up to see their child succeed, which clearly won’t happen unless they keep coaching them from the sidelines and woe be anyone who gets in their way. lacrosse player running across field

Instead, what I think about is the jerk parent’s child. I’ve seen this in volleyball, basketball and now lacrosse competitions, and there seems to always be one parent who is so caught up in winning that they forget that it’s horrible for a child to experience this public humiliation. There isn’t a kid in the world who in the heat of a sporting event needs their parents yelling at them across the court or field!

I see this in our own school sports community too: there are a couple of parents who are really critical, really have extraordinarily high expectations of their children, and whose kids do well but afterwards beat themselves up for not being perfect. Yes, they made 18 points for the team, but that one shot that they tried at the end missed, and they knew it all along, they’re losers, they suck.

That’s what these sideline coach parents are doing to their children. Not making them better players or more excited about the sport, but self-critical, depressed, pissed off little people who are caught in a vicious cycle of trying to excel at a sport to gain parental approval, just to find that they aren’t good enough.

It breaks my heart.

And Wyatt, wherever you are, good luck to you. Don’t take your dad too seriously. When he’s yelling at you, it’s his own stuff he’s working out…

4 comments on “Parents can be jerks at sporting events!

  1. Its an easy thing. I recently posted about this particularly with the mothers I see at these events treating their kids as their gladiators. The constant coaching and screaming takes the victory and loss from the players. The parent by trying to think for their kids takes away so much of the positive experience of any team sports. Learning to think critically and quickly, learning to work together on a team, and learning that others are better than you sometimes. My kids have benefited by me learning to be silent on the sidelines.

  2. Thanks for the great article! I have experienced this myself many, many times – and it is belittling to the child and steals his/her opportunity to learn critical thinking/observation/team spirit/good sportsmanship, etc. Children learn from experience, success and failure – we need to make sure we are allowing them to fully experience all of it. We don’t need to constantly hover and tell them how to do everything or rescue them from everything – let them figure it out and let them pick themselves up when the fall. Just be there to put your arm around them and tell them how proud you are of their choices and what you can see they have learned.

  3. From a fellow lax dad — I hear you. Though I have to say that I’ve seen this kind of behavior more from soccer parents than from lacrosse parents. Two things that have really upset me: Parents screaming at kid refs, and parents saying nasty things to or about opposing players. I see both all the time!

    What lessons are kids taking away from this kind of parental behavior? Nothing good.

  4. Hi Dave,

    Well let me tell you there is nothing worse in this world than hockey moms!!!!

    I coached for about 10 – 12 years and will do so again once my grandson is old enough to lace up skates.

    Thank goodness I was always on the bench away from the parents in the stands.

    Fortunately in hockey with the glass around the rink and the kids wearing helmets that fully cover their heads, it is hard for them to hear much.

    I have traveled to New Jersey and seen my two younger nephews play hockey and sad to say my brother is one of those horrible parents. I go stand somewhere else.

    He is always complaining…….

    I’ve told him he is a bad hockey parent and my sister-in-law too who also hates to go.

    Worse than their behavior at the game is the dreaded car ride home for the kid. The parent has to dissect everything about the game, complain about refs, etc. one on one to the kid who probably is growing to hate the sport.

    I had cousins who were always making the all star teams in baseball. They stopped playing after the age of 12 due to the pressure put on them by parents.

    It is a shame but too many parents think their kid is going pro and don’t let them be kids.

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