Let’s Be Honest…
Posted by Dean Holden at December 27th, 2014
by Dan Bauer, 26 November 2014
Parents, let’s be painfully honest. Beneath the surface of even the most dependable textbook team parents lie these undeniable truths. If your kid could play every minute of every game, you would love it. If they never came off the field, court or rink you would be in sports paradise. If your kid plays a great game and your team loses, you can live with the loss. It wasn’t your kid’s fault.
Following every game it is virtually impossible for you to go the next two hours without a) second-guessing the coach, b) criticizing another player on your team or making a sarcastic remark about another parent and/or c) complaining about your kid’s playing time or their role on the team.
Don’t believe me. I dare you to try it.
I have been a coach and parent for over 35 years. I know virtually nothing about the strategy of volleyball, compared to even a novice coach, but I have still found myself in the stands watching any of my four daughters play, saying, “Why are they doing that, why is that kid playing so much, haven’t they taught them how to serve right?” Mindful that these are thoughts I do keep to myself, but realistically I have no business even entertaining those notions.
For some reason that defies every particle of common sense, many of us seem to think we know more than the coaches that put in countless hours teaching our kids the games they play. In a few instances it might actually be true. Which begs the next question: Why aren’t you coaching the team? But more often than not, your perceived expertise is as delusional as the fantasy football general managers that actually believe they could run an NFL team.
We can honestly admit that in virtually every conversation we have with the coach, there is a part of us dying to tell them some detail about our kid that will improve their standing on the team. Did you know Mario is so intelligent that he can solve the Rubik’s Cube blindfolded and little Sydney is so dedicated to the team that he is giving up 15 minutes of Halo each day to shoot pucks at our dryer?
Drying your clothes on the shower curtain isn’t that bad.
Around every rink corner are dads offering free coffee and advice on the power play and moms toting Tupperware containers full of fresh baked cookies and tips on how to keep their child’s psyche intact. Casual conversations quickly morph into depth chart inquisitions and system analysis. Like a low interest credit card, we just can’t help ourselves.
The truth hurts, doesn’t it?
Sadly, many parents believe if they aren’t pestering the coach about these issues then they aren’t standing up for their child. On every team there are a handful of mostly dads who never think the role their child has on the team is big enough. And on every team there is handful of over-protecting mothers shielding their kids from failure like a sow protecting her cubs – and quite frankly I have encountered some hockey moms that I believe could back down a bear.
Like it or not, parents are now as much a part of your team as the players. They have always had a tremendous influence on our players, but now possess a sometimes reckless and dangerous power over the boards and administrators that decide the fate of coaches.
The honest truth is that far too many parents rate their parenting skills on the success or failure of the child’s athletic endeavors. Prepping their kids in athletics is paramount to maintaining their perceived status. And while Wayne may not be able to achieve three A’s on his report card, we will make sure he has three A’s on his hockey jersey even if it means mortgaging the family vacation. After all, who doesn’t want to spend spring break at an ice rink in Duluth?
Parents have turned “parenting” into the world’s most competitive sport.
As I have documented in previous articles, my parents were about as hands-off as you could be when I was growing up as an athlete. There were absolutely no lectures in the car ride home, or at the dinner table and no second-guessing the coach or criticizing other teammates. I learned that the coach was who I answered to. It is an “old school” culture that provided black-and-white clarity for players.
In the sports movie classic “Hoosiers,” after kicking all the parents out of his practice and finishing a game with four players on the court, coach Norman Dale (played by Gene Hackman) proclaims in the locker room, “What I say when it comes to this basketball team is the law, absolutely and without discussion.”
The parental battlefield is difficult to navigate, especially for inexperienced coaches. Like King Kong at the top of the Empire State Building, trying to do your job with so many helicopter parents circling your head is frustrating and distracting. In the end, many good coaches suffer the same fate as Kong – losing their will and falling to their coaching death.
Don’t be one of those hovering parents. You can think it, but for the sake of your child, their team and a coach who is doing the best job he can, have another coffee and a donut. You can take those added pounds off, but can’t take those impulsive words back.
Let’s be honest, Gene Hackman had it right.