As with many things in my life, when it came time for my kids to play sports and I was trying to figure out my role as a parent, I asked myself what my mom would do. See, my mom was the ultimate sports fan mom. She had a chair in her car trunk at all times for sideline sitting. She planned her work schedule around our games. She was a constant presence in bleachers, on pool decks and outside the foul ball line for at least 30 years.
One thing that was always true, no matter the kid or the sport, was that mom was quiet. She watched every play of every game and she knew a lot about most of them (except field hockey, that stumped her the entire time) but she rarely ever said a word. And yet, we always felt supported and never questioned her role as Super Fan. She didn’t need to yell and scream to show support.
The first soccer game I ever went to with my kid I remember being struck by how loud it was. I chalked it up to all these parents really knowing a lot about soccer. I understood the urge to yell, as I watched things and wanted to comment on them too. But I kept my mouth shut because it wasn’t my sport. I didn’t feel qualified to yell anything as I barely could figure out what was going on.
Then, basketball season came and I’d hear myself shouting directions nearly into the players ears and it was as if I didn’t even know I was doing it. Why was I so compelled to offer my two cents? Loudly? I justified it by telling myself I was helping. After all, I wasn’t starting fights with parents or cursing officials. I was merely offering suggestions on what I saw and guiding my own kid the way I thought I should. No harm in it, right?
My guess is that I felt compelled to yell because I’m used to being a sports fan in the stands, the far away kind. At Maryland basketball games we cheered and booed and questions officials all from the safe distance of our seats, very far from the court. As a Mountaineer in college and then later at Redskins’ games, I often yelled myself hoarse, always in support, but always loud. I am a passionate fan and sometimes that means a running commentary on what I see on the court or field.
But these behaviors aren’t meant for school or travel sports. These behaviors don’t work if you’re the parent. Coaching should be left up to coaches, not parents, no matter how much they do or don’t know about the sport. We’re not helping. At best, all our screaming is simply being ignored. At worst, it’s confusing the kids and irritating the coach. (I remember, from when I WAS the coach.) Neither of those scenarios works for anyone, most especially our kids.
The Husband and I were talking about it the other night at dinner. We finally agreed (after a little guidance from Mike Matheny) and vowed to spend more time playing the games with our kids at home and then shut up on the sidelines. It won’t be easy. But it will be right.
Something tells me, my Super Fan mom would approve.
This post was inspired by The Matheny Manifesto by Mike Matheny. The St. Louis Cardinals manager shares his tough-love philosophy for children’s team sports that translate to everyday life. Join From Left to Write on February 12th as we discuss The Matheny Manifesto. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.
The distinction is so important: pro vs. kids sports.
We live in a sports-crazy town, and I’m sure I’ll be spending lots of time in the stands once my kids are old enough for competitive sports. Right now, I just have a first grader playing softball. I know I’ll keep your advice in mind!