I know I criticize sports parents quite a bit and I really shouldn't since I'm one of those said parents, but they just make it so easy. A friend asked me if I attract the crazies, but I don't think I do. I'm just really observant. I listen more than I speak and with age, I've developed a wisdom with a serenity that I didn't have as a young sports parent.
I'm now able to have passion and enthusiasm for my kid's sports with a positive outlook no matter what the result of their performance. My self esteem or perceived status isn't tied to how many goals they scored or how fast they ran. I'm able to enjoy the sports like I've never been able to before. It's not about beating their closest rival, it's about working hard and constantly improving.
This summer I've witnessed some great kids as well as parents that are crazy supportive. And some that are just crazy. I know all sports bring them out, but I find the summer swim clubs really bring the parent intensity level to the surface. If you've never had a kid swim on a summer club, they're designed to be fun, a little lower key than year-round intense pressure-cookers. The whole idea is to have F.U.N.
During the winter months, the parents are kept at bay by being banished to stands that are quite a distance from the swimmers. In the summer, you can get right up to that water and scream to your heart's content. During the years, I've seen it all. I've seen parents bring megaphones, get right into their kid's face and yell as soon as they finished and even a parent getting so animated that they fell into the pool while screaming. I've seen parents bribe their kid with money to beat one of their friends. I've seen parents withhold affection after a loss when a kid really needed it.
I've seen kids cry, say they hate swimming and tell their coach they only do it because their parents are making them.
There are plenty of opportunities for our kids to feel pressure and compete with the best of them during the school year. Parents, please lighten up for summer competitions. We all like to win and do our best, but it needs to come down to having a good time - if we allow them, the kids just want to be kids.
The thing that made me write this was witnessing an interaction between a parent and a kid at my son's summer swim club. The boy happened to be a very talented swimmer and had parents that clearly gained something out of his winning things. I was unknowingly standing next to the mom when the kid came running over after breaking a record in his event.
She started out great, but then went downhill drastically with just one comment about my son.
"Oh Carson, I'm so proud of you - you went SSOOO fast!"
"Thanks - that was awesome!"
"I can't believe all those kids you beat - some were great, but nobody can go faster than you - we just need to work on a few things."
"I love winning!......You know what else I love, I love swimming when Ryder is around!"
The mom giggled a little, "Why, because he's so slow and you can crush him?"
The boy just looked at her with a dumbfounded gaze and slowly said, "Um, no.... it's because he yells and cheers me on the whole way. He makes me feel like I can do anything."
I fear that mom just let that interaction go right over her head, but I hope that Carson keeps his perspective and is able to persevere despite his mother. Lighten up parents - it's childhood and kids will be pure and happy if we let them - stop wrecking it.
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