Becoming a Spectator

It’s spring. The birds are chirping, trees are green, flowers are blooming, and it’s time to pack up the kids and make the pilgrimage down to the field to engage in the perennial ritual of organized sports. They love it. I love it. Or I did, anyway. Both of my kids are playing team sports this spring. The season is coming to an end and frankly, I’m pretty darned glad to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, they both love the games, the weekend practices and the competition. They enjoy the getting on the field and running amok with their peers. They like being part of a team and working toward a collective win. It’s all good fun and I like making it possible for them to participate.


That said, I’m going to hop up onto a soapbox for a moment and ask the parents of the players to please…for the love of gawd…stop screaming and shouting at your kids while they are trying to participate in the game. Did I say “ask?” I’m sorry, I meant “knock it off.”  Each week I sit on the sidelines and watch my kids gain new skills and develop a real love of the game. Each week I sit next to some red-faced parent who can’t stop screaming at their kids. They are shouting at them to do something different than what they are doing right now and causing evident confusion for the kids in the game. They are shouting at them to be aware of something about to happen. They are barking at them to say ‘good job’. Most of all, they are trying like hell to participate in the game from the sidelines. Are they living vicariously through their kid?  There is a reason that they aren’t in the game…they aren’t on the team, not to mention that they are adults and these teams are for kids under 10. Be a spectator.

I would very much like to ask parents if they think that shouting at their kid who is simultaneously dribbling a ball, planning out their next move, listening to their coach *and* listening to their crimson-flush parent scream blistering directives is a little overwhelming for the kid. Can any of us adults do all of that simultaneously?  Imagine sitting at your desk, working on a report while your boss is yelling at you, your co-workers are cheering you on, insert a parent or two telling you what to do differently and do it all on a timeline. Holy crap, people.

What does it mean to be a spectator? Definition from Webster:


(ˈspɛk teɪ tər, spɛkˈteɪ-)


1. a person who looks on or watches; onlooker; observer.

2. a member of the audience at a public spectacle, display, or the like.

Notice that there is no screaming, ranting, yelling, etc. in the definition? Interesting omission—clearly an oversight. I understand that it is exciting. I totally get that you want to help encourage your kid and/or tell them how to do it differently so that their team can win. If encouraging our kids is really what we are looking to do – how about giving them a ‘great job’ or a more pointed ‘you really rocked offense today, bud’ at halftime or after the game? You want to give them feedback on how to do it differently? Maybe ask yourself why you feel like you need to give the kid such feedback. Our jobs as parents is to show up, attend the game, and be supportive. If you want to give your kid that one-on-one help, do it on your own time, not the team’s time. We want kids to enjoy the game and learn the skills that come from playing a team sport. I refuse to believe for a single moment that it is fun to be the object of a screaming parent in the middle of a game. Nobody is going to convince me otherwise. And that’s not to mention how such behavior negatively affects the team as a whole. It’s disruptive, arrogant, and selfish. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember those characteristics on the development checklist when signing my kids up for organized sports.

Next time you are at a game watching your kid’s team, check out how hard the kids are concentrating. It’s hard work to focus on the game and coordinate your body to connect with the ball in just the right way. See the look on their faces when they continually hear their name yelled from several sources. Sometime they look at the parent with a look of confusion and bewilderment. I don’t know that they can really *hear* that much at one time. They know when they are doing something great…and they know when they are failing. Most kids are pretty good at being critical of themselves.

Stepping down from the soapbox now. Don’t make me throw the soapbox at you—stop injecting yourself into the game. We can all be spectators.

**photo courtesy of Jeff Phillips – check him out here:

Filed under: Family

Tags: Family, Kids, Sports

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