Who hasn’t been at a child’s baseball, t-ball or soccer game gleefully cheering on their children, only to witness embarrassing behavior and even vulgar language coming from other fans? I’m always amazed at the messages sent by adults watching professional sports, but I’m actually shocked when I see some of that same behavior in the stands at a child’s sporting event.
Recently, I was at a high school girls’ soccer game where I witnessed a father screaming across the field at his daughter. I also watched as her participation and enthusiasm for the game decreased significantly. It was nothing short of sad to watch her head start to lower, her shoulders sink, her speed across the field decrease, and her participation shrink to walking up and down the field. Prior to that, she had been one of the stars of the game. At one point the coach even quietly pulled the father aside to talk to him. It didn’t seem to help. That event has been haunting me ever since, because I felt helpless in changing the situation. In hindsight, I wish that I had known how to react or what to say to make the girl feel better or the father pipe down.
Sports are recreation for our kids and recreation is supposed to be fun. As adults we sometimes make it too difficult for our children to have fun. We should be helping children to learn good etiquette, sportsmanship, and teamwork. Parents screaming at the umps, yelling at their children, or berating the coaches are not only not fun, they’re also embarrassing and lower our children’s self esteem. These effects and emotional scars can last a lifetime.
Let’s make it simple. Let’s tell our children “It’s just baseball” (or soccer, or t-ball, or whatever). Whatever it is, it is all about having fun. If we have fun watching them participate, they will have fun. Playing the game is what should be important. Winning or losing are just an end. In this case, I firmly believe the means to the end is more important than the end itself.
Go throw a ball, cheer on your child, cheer on your neighbor’s child (even if they’re on the opposing team) and congratulate all the children who play the game.
Have you witnessed any parents behaving badly at sporting events? Tell us about what you saw, and how you handled the situation.