Sometimes, Parents are a Drag

This summer, my brother played on his little league 12U baseball team, and I tried to go to as many of his games as possible.  They were pretty successful, as they won their District Championship and were one win away from entering the regional round of play.  They always seemed to have a great time on the field and my brother loved playing, but there was one thing that bothered me at every game I attended: parents (including my own).

On any given play, I heard hoards of parents yelling things at their kids ranging from “Move over, you’re too far down the line,” to “Come on Joe, hit the ball,” to my personal favorite, “throw strikes here, buddy” (Seriously, how is that supposed to help?).  None of them were following little league baseball’s guidelines to “honoring the game”, and I am positive that none of the players appreciated their parents singling them out in front of their peers.  The players had enough to think about- beating their crosstown rivals, facing the best pitcher in the county, and performing up the the standards of their fellow players and coaches- the last thing they needed was misguided parental advice.

“I better get this bunt down or I’ll have to listen to my Dad’s stupid instructions. He doesn’t even know anything about baseball.” Credit

One time, I was talking to my brother after a key win, and asked if he was feeling excited.  “I guess,” he said.  “I just wish Dad would be quiet for once.  I get really anxious when he gives me instructions from the stands during games.”  He had just won a huge game, but wasn’t feeling great about it because he had to hear my Dad hollering from the sidelines the whole time.  Clearly, parental presence at games can detract from a player’s enjoyment.  While coaches can instill fear in players or sometimes push them too hard, parental pressure at games brings a new level of discomfort.  When parents pressure their kids at games, the kids have to not only endure the embarrassment on the field, but also fear that they will be less accepted at home.

A few weeks ago, I tagged along with a few of my friends to watch their IM flag football team’s playoff game.  Even though it’s just an IM sport, it can be very competitive and serious.  Some teams have coaches, and a few even have statisticians that record every play and drive.  One thing that is absent from these games, however, is parents.  None of the players have to worry about disappointing their dad who is trying to relive his glory days, or listen to their moms make an embarrassing complaint about the refereeing.  Although it was just as competitive as a little league game, it was a much more comfortable environment, and I consequently enjoyed watching it more.

In A. Bartlett Giamatti’s Take Time for Paradise (1989), he talks about the connection spectators have with the games being played in front of them, saying, “the spectator invests his surrogate out there with all of his care-free hopes, his aspirations for freedom, his yearning for transmutation of business into leisure, war into peace, effort into grace.”  This certainly holds true for little league parents, and they may be even more invested into the game than Giamatti suggests.   Giammati also writes that spectators and players share “a bond of energy, resentment, and awe,” and in the case of little league games, the players definitely sway more towards resentment.  While parents may simply be expressing their deep connection to watching their children play, they are unintentionally degrading the game by making their children think about their expectations, rather than the game they are playing.

Overall, I felt that the IM football game was a much more enjoyable event to attend because the players were operating free of outside pressures.  The athletes were not thinking about their obnoxious parents before the plays were called, and it made for a more fluid game.  It felt like the players were truly competing with each other, instead of battling their personal anxieties about their family members in the stands.

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3 comments

  1. aricerq · December 9, 2014

    I agree with what your saying in regards to the pressure parents place on their children when it comes to sports. I played sports throughout middle school and highschool, and even though I wasn’t good at it (I was mostly just doing it because I thought it was fun), my father would always sit on the sidelines and call out advice. Advice I didn’t necessarily care to hear. And after each game as we walked to the car he would tell me what I needed to improve on, what I did wrong during the game, and things to look out for while on the field. While it never got to me too much, seeing as I knew I would never be district champ, it was still aggravating and made me feel pressured.

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  2. noahblum · December 9, 2014

    I couldn’t agree more; I think it’s ridiculous when parents yell at their kids from the sidelines when most of the time they have no idea what they are talking about. I played baseball for most of my life, but the last truly fun season I had was during the fall of my eighth grade year. The vibe was more like that of the IM football game that you described. While it was competitive, we were primarily concerned with having fun. After starting high school baseball, it became too serious, and the degrading of the sport that you described occurred. I think that when we lose sight of simply playing to have fun, we also lose sight of Giammati’s paradise.

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  3. acfalk2 · December 9, 2014

    I completely agree with your view on the “parental guidance” parents think is necessary for their child to be successful. I have noticed this myself, and think it is a very big problem in todays generation and society. Parents not only have this negative effect on their children’s anxiety and performance, they also play a major role on the child’s desire to compete and truly earn rewards. Many parents are taking it upon themselves to coach their children. Because of this kids are getting the idea that they are the best at the sport, because their parents put them on a pedestal, and never take them out of the game no matter how poorly they are playing. Kids become selfish, and overly cocky. This makes them a very uncoachable athlete, and cuts their success rate in half. Kids are becoming more dependent on their parents, rather than themselves, and don’t know what it is like to earn something, because their parents hand it to them.

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