I’ve been into sports since I was a kid. I’ve seen my fair share of greatness, heartbreak and crazy shit. I’ve played with and against people that now play in MLB, prestigious D1 schools, and even MLS. I’ve seen hoop dreams deflate like a true fiend’s weight. Just kidding, I was an average-height white kid so I never played basketball.
I cannot think of anything more sad and pathetic than the parents who live vicariously through their kids who play sports. They come in droves. Mini-vans, SUVs and sometimes even a sedan or two. They think because they buy the nicest equipment, spend ungodly amounts of money on private lessons, try out for the best travel teams or sign up their little prodigy for every camp that their child will be the next Jordan, Gretzky or Brady. It doesn’t matter that the child in question is either nine years old and not exactly lighting it up (he’s a late bloomer but you can see the potential) or is a third liner on the JV team as a sophomore, these parents have illusions of grandeur that would make Kim Jong Un question his reality.
I’ve been coaching kids ages 7-18 on and off for the past six years. A good friend of mine, Andy, coaches a JV hockey team that is a feeder team for one of the best private schools in the country. Some of the kids need to grow a bit and hone their skills, other kids are terrible and serve as warm bodies. When I was home from college, I would spend many of my days helping Andy teach the finer points of hockey to some high schoolers. Without fail, at the end of every practice, at least 1-2 parents would stop by and give him some pointers about their child, their lack of ice time, a position switch, when they’d get a call up to varsity, etc. Andy also assistant coached the varsity team, so they thought he’d be able to “use his influence” to get Junior through the ranks.
Everyone remembers “that parent” when they were growing up. Never mind the statistics about playing at a higher level, their kid is special. I had a father of a player on my team run the fence line when his son, Patrick, would hit a slow roller to the pitcher, encouraging his kid to “dig it out”. Patrick is currently touring with some shitty emo band and working at a convenience store when not touring to promote his fire tier album.
Something I’ve noticed with sports parents is that the ones that think their child is good never actually played the game or had any form of athleticism. It’s always the parents that have experience with the sport that seem to understand to let the coaches do their thing. Their kids generally are also better due to the tutelage of a knowledgeable parent, but that’s neither here nor there. The best thing to do is let the coaches do their thing, especially if you are an armchair coach.
With my current part-time coaching gig, the kids are younger and we teach them fundamentals while trying to keep them from hurting each other or crying. It is one part babysitting for every part coaching. While the rampant “my baby is a super star” parents aren’t out in full force yet, there are certain kids you can tell have potential. Some parents get way too into the fact that their child dominates at a low level. I always tell them, “Wait until they introduce hitting”. Once full contact is legalized, all bets are off.
Truly, sports parents are the worst. Some of the parents that coach have absolutely no idea what they are doing. There are two “coaches” in particular that run drills that can barely skate, let alone teach kids fundamentals. Since I am only friends with the kids’ parents through men’s league hockey, I don’t have much of a say. I try to be nice and ask if they need help, only to be rebuffed with, “I got it.” I like the volunteer spirit but please, if you don’t know how to coach, leave it to people with years of experience. I don’t get paid to do this, but I do it for the love of the game. Some of my best coaches were young newly married or single guys that volunteered their spare time, so don’t ruin it.
You can buy the nicest gear, send your kids to celebrity athlete-run camps and “tutor” your brat through every YouTube video on the sport, but the fact remains: if you spoil your little bastard, chances are, he or she won’t learn anything and will not work hard. That’s the common denominator in sports; talent can only take a kid so far, but as a parent, instilling the ability to be coached and teaching hard work pays dividends ten times over. Just please, remember it is a game and don’t be a shithead. Your kids will hate you and the game, and they will likely do drugs and join an underground emo band as a result. .
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