Children In Competitive Sports – Be A Parent First

Our weekends are full of sports. If we aren’t attending our own children’s sports we are most likely fighting the weather in one way shape or form watching our nephews. The kids were able to play baseball together this summer and their dads coached the teams. Once they moved in to the All-Star teams the whole dynamic changed. We went from family hangouts to listening to belligerent parents, sometimes coaches, and every so often we’d see a kid lose his/her cool on the field. My heart hurt for those children, so passionate about their sport. Feeling every ounce of their loss in their bones, sometimes bringing them to tears.

I hold the banner high being the screaming mom and aunt. I’m proud on those stands. I love watching them play and I’m sure I’m dubbed the village idiot by some of my fellow parents because if one of our kids makes a play or hits the ball I’m yelling “THAT A BOY/GIRL” and “GO GO GO!”

When I was growing up I had one Aunt who I always knew was at my games/meets. If I didn’t see her before they started I heard her during the races or when I was up to bat. She would scream from the stands “GO SISSY GO!” it always gave me a pick me up knowing we had family there.

I come from a long line of runners. We enjoy the sport, our kids enjoy the sport, and our family enjoys watching the kids grow in the sport. When I was in school we couldn’t run competitively for school until seventh grade. I couldn’t wait. Being trained by my brother and all boy cousins I succeeded once I got started. I loved the sport. Now a days kids are able to participate in all kinds of biddy sports – my son ran for 2 years. The mile fun runs, he did a great job and my heart beamed with pride watching him cross the finish line each time. This year as the season started he wasn’t excited about it anymore. I asked him why he didn’t want to run- he adamantly insisted, “because you always make me and I don’t want to do it this year.” It was hard for me to not push him to keep going but I knew if we made him do it he would lose his passion for it before he really started.

That’s called being a parent. Listening to your kids.

I was presented with a unique confrontation at the start line of one of my own races this weekend. Me and my nephew were at the start line. This community is small so most of the runners know each other and compete with each other often. I believe I could make the safe assumption that if you aren’t new to the area, the public would recognize our family as a band of runners as we’ve been doing it on and off for several generations. That being said we stood at the start line when a parent that I recognize from the race earlier in the week was there with his children. He walks up to the official and begins to ask questions like

“Now is this going to be a fair race? No shoving, hitting, punching, cutting off? I mean we’re here to race right?”

The official looks confused answering his questions, but at that time I saw exactly where this was going.

He becomes increasingly agitated as he continues to badger the official.

I look at my nephew and say loud enough that this man can hear, “Don’t worry about him bud, we are here to have fun, just go out and run your race and have fun, that’s what we are here for.”

Apparently that was the moment he was waiting for. His head spun around so fast I suspect he may have whip lash. He challenges me.

He yells. “WHAT DID YOU SAY!?”

I can hear his daughter at the end of the line, “Dad, stop. Please stop it”

I answer. “I told him to go out and run his race and have fun, that’s what we are here for, to have fun.”

The belligerence is spewing from this middle aged mans mouth. My nephew is in tears and his daughter is repeatedly asking her dad to stop. It goes on for several minutes as he berates me and my nephew. He repeatedly tells me that I need to learn to be a parent.

What I wish I could have told him is that I am in fact a parent and if he were willing to listen I could tell him that my son ( who isn’t at this race today) is a passionate athlete. He isn’t here, because I listen to my children when they tell me I am pushing them too hard. I don’t force them to do a sport just because they are good at it.

His children seem to be phenomenal athletes themselves, but I fear with his attitude and inability to hear them, it will kill their passion and love for this sport before they get their feet off the ground. But I couldn’t say any of this because this man came with an intent and he was meeting that intent by trying to antagonize a 12 year old over something he thought he saw in a race that happened several days prior.

This heated argument ended between him and I – moving between him and my sister-in-law. She was able to get the race started and talk to this man privately, defending her son but also diffusing the situation. These two children were so worked up over the ordeal they got lost during the race that day. My nephew apologized to his daughter to which she responded she was sorry for her dads behavior. I hope that she went home and was commended for what a class act she is because she deserves it. What a sad moment it would be for me as a parent to have my child apologize to another child for my behavior.

I was embarrassed that it came to that. I told my nephew I was sorry and I hope that I didn’t embarrass him but I will never let a grown man antagonize and berate a child right in front of me for reasons that he was mislead upon. Had that situation been handled with care – the children would have never been involved – and I wouldn’t have watched two children be publically humiliated.

I believe in sports and what good it does for the children involved. It can build passion, love for the sport, and community, but one moment like that can ruin it. So I guess the question is not, are the children mature enough to compete, but are the parents?

💜 Jess

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