By Carrie Tinsley of Carrie On, Y’all
God is great, beer is good, and people at kids’ sporting events are crazy. I used to believe that the urban legends you hear about parents getting into fights at kids’ sports were just that: myths that float around suburbia of over-testosteroned dads reliving their glory days through t-ball, soccer for four-year-olds, and Pop Warner football…really showing those other parents whose second grader is gonna play quarterback in the SEC someday.
Apparently, I was wrong.
Recently, my friend Sam (not his real name), a sweet guy, a married father of two children, got into a fist fight with another dad at his 10-year-old son’s pee-wee football scrimmage. He has the battle scars and the police report to prove it.
Sam says that, at a pre-season scrimmage, a mom kindly asked a belligerent parent to refrain from offensive language directed at players, coaches, and referees. Presumably, the children were there to learn the game of football, not to learn 1,001 Ways to Be an Offensive JackHole on a Tuesday. When the crazy man loudly and impolitely told this mother to mind her own business, Sam stepped in and said, “Quit being an asshole, man.”
After the game, the belligerent parent waited for Sam in the parking lot and attacked him in front of his 10-year-old. Sam had to defend himself and they fought. The belligerent parent was banned from all his son’s future games and may have been arrested by the police who were called to the scene.
People. Are. Crazy.
So here’s my Public Service Announcement to any parent who has ever started a fight at his/her kid’s sporting event (yes, there are crazy mamas out there too, y’all). Come to think of it, here’s a PSA for all parents cheering their kids on.
Your kid isn’t the next Peyton Manning, Kobe Bryant, or Derek Jeter. Somewhere out there is one mom or dad whose kid is. But it’s probably not you.
Your kids will never remember whether they won or lost a particular game, but they will remember and, more importantly, imitate your reaction to the coaches, referees, and other adults.
Violence is not the answer. Yes, children must learn to defend themselves if someone is bullying them or picks a fight with them. But starting the fight, either in word or deed and especially when you’re the adult, is entirely different. Find another way to resolve the conflict.
Those adults out there with your kid? They’re either volunteers or paid professionals. One is selflessly giving time so kids can learn and enjoy sports. The other has risen to a level where someone believes he should be paid for his expertise. You don’t have to agree with coaches or referees all the time, but you might appreciate that they’re out there with the kids while you’re on your ass in a lawn chair. If you think you can do better, volunteer or apply for the job, and report back in six months.
It’s just a game. Repeat that to yourself whenever you need to. It’s just a game. We aren’t ending world hunger here. We aren’t finding the cure for cancer. This isn’t a life or death situation. It’s just a game. The world has real problems, but that last call in 8U baseball isn’t one of them.
Organizing sports has taken the fun out of sports. Kids have an innate sense of fairness that we lose as we get older. My favorite times to watch my kids play sports are in our neighborhood, when kids of all ages are teaming up. They are their own referees. They create rules to enhance fairness. For example, when my 4-year-old son gets up to bat, the older kids don’t just give him three strikes. They pitch until he hits. When he finally hits, they count to five before they throw to first base. I didn’t tell the kids to do this or even to include him. They did it themselves. This is the best kind of kids’ sporting event.
Love your kids for who they are and the amazing talents they possess. If your kid’s talent isn’t sports, then you’d better be in the front row at the violin concert or art exhibit cheering him on. Your kid may not have the same athletic prowess that you did as a child. Your kid might not have the same passion or love for the game that you did (or still do). And THAT’S OKAY! There is nothing more heartbreaking than parents who are angry and disappointed when their kids don’t want to play sports, or worse, force their kids to play anyway.
I’m not calling for the end to organized sports (haha…I wish I could wield that kind of power!), but I am calling for common sense, fairness, respect, and sportsmanship. Most of all, I’d like to see parents back off. Yelling? Criticizing? Fighting? They don’t belong in a place where kids are learning and trying to have fun.
This post was originally published on Carrie On, Y’all.
About Carrie Tinsley
Carrie Tinsley is a Southern girl, a recovering English teacher, the wife of a very patient man, and the mother of three kids, a dog, and a cat. She loves audio books and alcohol and blogs about parenting misadventures and other poor attempts at housekeeping and DIY at Carrie On Y’all. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.