As a mom, I recently witnessed a horrific lesson in how not to act at your child’s sporting event.
It was a softball game and one of the girls was up to bat for the first time. She looked nervous and very unsure of herself. It’s not uncommon for girls in Jr. High sports to lack confidence, but this girl in particular was a stark contrast to her fidgety teammates.
As she walked up to the plate, a group of people I presume to be her family began to give her a verbal beating disguised as cheering. It was awful. After she swung late at an outside pitch, out came the sarcasm and taunting.
I watched her shoulders slump as she glanced behind her with a disapproving and somewhat embarrassed look on her face. I’m certain she wished she could disown her family at that point. I felt bad for her.
With every pitch, she cowered down a little more and her swings became slower and less powerful. The words hurt. The tone of voice was painful and the sarcasm was excruciating. It was making me agitated and I wasn’t even the target of the chanting.
You’ve probably been in that same awkward situation yourself. You know… The one where another mom on your daughter’s team is yelling at her own kid and everyone around her on the bleachers is looking at each other with raised eyebrows but no one says anything.
Well I’m going to say it.
I’m all for cheering on your kids in sports, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. And frankly, if you can’t do it the right way, then please remain seated and staple your lips shut if you have to. Your silence will do us all a world of good.
If you see yourself as the parent in this scenario, it’s not really the other parents you should be worried about. It’s how your actions affect your child.
Here are the top 4 things you should avoid doing to embarrass yourself and your kids when they are playing sports.
Your kids are so used to your voice that they can detect the slightest hint of dishonesty, sarcasm and disappointment in it from a mile away. And you’re not a mile away when you’re seated on the nearby bleachers. To that child, you are bigger than life and they can pick your voice out of that crowd instantly.
Don’t try to fake it. Kids know when you’re faking it. Unless you hold an Oscar for best actress, don’t try to pull one over on her.
At the ball games I have attended, it’s is almost inevitable that some parent somewhere will say something like “Why’d you swing at that? This isn’t golf!”
Ok, first of all – your kid knows they just swung and missed. Most kids are smart enough to realize they just made a mistake and they need to correct it for next time. They don’t need mom or dad rubbing it in. Don’t state the obvious.
Instead, say something helpful like “Let’s dial it now and get the next one. You can do this!” That’s encouragement, not a put down. Save your sarcasm for comedy central and don’t say a darn thing unless it is empowering and you mean what you are saying.
My biggest pet peeve is hearing a parent say “You should have…” from the sideline. I can tell you, as a former athlete that it’s stressful enough without having a parent or a fan tell you what to do. It’s not their job.
The “You should have…” comments are for the coach to dish out – in private. A good coach will pull a child or a team aside, break down the error and explain what to do next time to make it better. Let them do that.
Or, if you’re an athletic parent who has played the game before – offer tips and suggestions after the game – at home. Don’t discuss your child’s mistake’s publicly in front of everyone. Seriously. These are kids, not professional athletes.
This one may seem obvious, but I see it at every game. One kid gets up to bat and right behind home plate is a sibling shouting out taunting remarks. If that sibling is your kid, shut ‘em down. Immediately. It’s inappropriate. It’s distracting to everyone and just piles more stress on the student athlete.
You may allow your kids to verbally abuse one another at home (ant that’s a whole other topic), but when you let one of them do it at a public sporting event, you are essentially letting them bully the athlete. In school sports, athletes are taught to ignore the crowd and not to say anything back. The athlete may be doing their best to ignore their brother or sister, but I guarantee they hear every word and it does affect their performance.
You – the parent - have the power to stop the taunting. Do it. Your athlete will thank you for it.
Let me know in the comments below.
And don’t be THAT MOM at the ball game!
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