What’s Wrong With Youth Sports Today: Parents Edition

*Parents, please note that the following post contains a mix of satire and truth. It’s up to you to decide how much you take seriously. 

I recently posted about my personal experiences with youth sports and realized that I had more to say than would fit into one blog post.

So, here is the Parents Edition of What’s Wrong With Youth Sports Today.

I’ll just come right out and say it: parents are ruining youth sports. 

Now, someone remind me (once again) to write a follow-up on this once I have my own children. I’m sure I will have a boatload more to say at that point, but for now this is my stance.

Why are parents ruining youth sport? I’ll tell you why:

  • They are too damn supportive. Back in the day, parents just dropped their kids off at soccer practice and picked them up when they were done. Now, not only are your parents cheering you on at every game, they’re also telling you to run faster during practice. As kids, we play sports to get away from our parents. Don’t ruin this for us.
  • They only buy healthy snacks. These days everyone is gluten free and/or has a peanut allergy. Gone are the days when the snack after the game was not really a food group at all. I once saw a parent bring two veggie trays as a snack at a soccer jamboree and I almost fainted at the sight of it. What has the world come to?
  • They cheer so damn loud. Want to know why I chose swimming as my sport? Because you can’t hear your parents cheering you on if you’re underwater. I actually can’t even sit next to my mom at any sporting event because her cheer gradually gets louder and higher-pitched throughout the game, until you’re sure that you’re going to lose your hearing.
  • They’re convinced that their kid is the best. Although we could have used the self-esteem boost, I’m glad that our parents never told us we were the best players on the team. Because those kids have the worst attitudes and the worst sportsmanship. They’re the ones who throw a fit when the game just isn’t going their way or when another kid on the team isn’t as good as they are. They’re terrible to be around if the team is losing, and their parents enable that behavior.
  • They’re also convinced that they would be a better coach. I was going to say especially the dads, but the truth is that the moms are just as bad. I won’t discriminate based on gender. Every parent thinks that they could do a better job. They could shape up the team. They could lift their spirits. They could magically make every kid into a pro player by the end of the season. And they would do it without yelling as much as Coach Johnson does. You go, Karen. Let’s see you try and coach the team. You and your veggie trays won’t last an hour.
  • Or worse, they are the coach. I think the best year of soccer I ever played was when we had a coach who was a younger guy–I think he was in college–and he was not a parent of anyone on the team. Matter of fact, I don’t think he was a parent, period. Everyone on that team improved their skills, was given a chance to play a fair amount of time each game, and even the all-stars had better attitudes. Maybe this guy was just a soccer-coaching wizard, but I do think it makes a difference having a coach who isn’t a parent of one of their players. Matter of fact, more parents should coach opposing teams. I can’t think of anything better than winning against a team that your parent is coaching and I can’t think of anything worse than losing to that team.
  • They become an expert on the sport. There are pros and cons to this, of course, but overall I don’t think any kid wants their parent to micro-manage every aspect of their life based on their current sport. Especially since your kid probably isn’t going to become a professional athlete. Don’t crush their dreams, but maybe let them take some initiative and become an expert on their sport. Let them put in the extra hours practicing, if they want to, but don’t make them. Be there for them, support them, and remember that they already have a coach. 
  • They’re too invested. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a high-school-age referee or umpire get verbally abused by parents at a game. It’s youth sports, people! There are going to be bad calls. There are going to be questionable calls. There are going to be good calls that you still disagree with. Be a good example and don’t scream at the 16-year-old referee. He’s just trying to do his job and you’re making it harder. Go to a professional sporting event if you want to be surrounded by adults who complain about every referee’s call. Guess what? You can drink beer there, too! 

Okay, now that I’ve demeaned all of you and your life’s work as parents, what now?

Well, you can write me some hate mail or you can try something different:

  • Talk to your kids about your level of involvement in their sport. Maybe they absolutely love having you at every game cheering them on. Or maybe they really like hanging out with their friends in the dugout telling inappropriate jokes and they’d rather you not be around to spoil their fun! Maybe they want you to coach their team this year and they think you’re a great coach. Or maybe they would rather have a coach that is just a coach.
  • Consider coaching another team. If you love coaching and want to be heavily involved, consider coaching a team that your kid doesn’t play on. Obviously this could be a scheduling nightmare, so it might not work for everyone. But you might find that it’s actually more enjoyable to coach a bunch of kids you’ve never met. As a babysitter, I can tell you that kids usually behave better when they’re with anyone else besides their parents, so that could be a win-win!
  • Skip the games, or take a walk. If you find that you tend to get riled up watching your kid play, consider staying at home for some of their games, or taking a walk during the game if you suddenly hear yourself yelling five times louder and higher than normal. Or fill your water bottle with vodka if that calms you down. Either one.

And last but not least, don’t be an asshat. Just don’t. Your kid is watching you. Other kids are watching you. Other parents are watching you. Judgmental bloggers are watching you. Treat people with respect and don’t lose your shit over a youth sporting event. It’s supposed to be all about having fun, right?

Make youth sports fun again!

Side note: I realize that not everyone will be happy with me for giving unsolicited advice to parents, when I am not a parent myself. But think of it this way. I’m 23 years old. I remember vividly what it was like to be a kid. I think my parents still consider me a kid. So take this as advice from a kid’s perspective. Once I have kids of my own, I’m sure I will have plenty more to add from the perspective of a parent. Stay tuned. 

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