I’m not one to complain a lot. But when my husband calls me from a kids’ hockey tournament and tells me about the competing team’s parents taunting my kid’s team (these are 8-10-year old players, by the way), shouting profanity, and being downright horrible role models, my blood boils. So, here’s my uncharacteristic rant. I’m hoping some perspective from good old ME can help change this dynamic, though I’m guessing those of you who read this and agree are already in my camp anyway.
How about some respect, fellow sports parents? How about self awareness? How about decency? Or empathy … or actually wanting to be the good people who lift others up? Have you ever heard of a role model? If you’re a parent, you are one. It’s up to you whether you’re a good one or not, one that other parents hope will influence their own kids. To those parents at that hockey tournament, I’m simply explaining your behavior to my kids as how NOT to behave and how NOT to treat people.
Guess what? My kid’s team won the championship — medals and trophies and all. And the winning game was against this same team that had parents who were so loudly putting down, insulting, and ridiculing these 8 year olds (EIGHT. YEAR. OLDS.) in an earlier game when they were winning. Amazing how quiet they got during this final game. Sure, I’m thrilled that my son’s team won. But I would have been just as proud and happy if they hadn’t. I was so excited for them to try their best, to have a blast out there on the ice no matter who was going to win. Because the teamwork, effort, and fun are what matter in my book. Maybe someday you other people — and ideally your kids — can see it my way. It’s really quite simple:
Nice shot, nice save:
“Nice shot, nice save.” That simple phrase says a lot, and I say it a lot. It acknowledges the skill and the spirit in the game, and respects the talent and effort that goes into both teams. Remember those young kids out there on the ice (or field, or court, or track, or whatever it is for whatever sport you’re watching)? One is trying hard to score, to get the perfect shot, to make a pass to a teammate, to move the team toward success. The other is trying to block it,. How noble . . . and how SIMPLE it is to acknowledge both. NO, I’,m not saying you shouldn’t cheer for your team or want them to do well. I’m saying that you can do that in a way that acknowledges the skill on both teams, while modeling respectable behavior. Sure, you can be bummed that your team’s slapshot didn’t make it into the goal. But how wonderful if you can also applaud the goalie who had a solid rubber puck flying at him at warp speed and who blocked it from passing into his net.
My dad taught me that at an early age. Or rather, I learned it from my dad by watching his behavior and comments at sporting events. He didn’t have to blatantly tell me to say that or to think that way. Remember that whole role model rant above? Yeah, he’s a good one to learn from. I absorbed it and continue it to this day.
Be a positive influence by citing the positive:
I work in marketing. It’s a cool job that is just the right balance of super-creative and highly analytical and strategic. I often get the chance to determine what message a brand or company should communicate to be most compelling to its consumers. In just about every research study conducted in my almost 20-year career, one thing rings true: consumers are much more receptive to your message when you tout your own strengths instead of slamming a competitor. The same principle applies here — CHEER for your team and support them! CELEBRATE the wins! But never ever think it’s OK to insult the other team, especially when it’s a team of 8-, 9-, and 10-year-olds. I’m embarrassed for you.
If you don’t know what that stands for, google it. It probably seems contradictory that here I am ranting over how to be a good role model and then I drop a term with the f-bomb in it. But that’s what happens when I’m fired up, and here’s my point: If you truly can’t bring yourself to be a big enough person to comment something like “nice shot, nice save,” then just STFU. Keep your insults to yourself. Keep your profanity to yourself. If you’re at a kids’ sports event, there are likely kids around. Go figure. Not all parents want their kids hearing profanity and thinking it’s a must-use at sports games.
NO, I’m not saying to be an over-protective parent, coddling your children and sheltering them from swears and stuff. And I’m not saying every player is great or that they deserve a participation trophy. I’m just saying STFU at the sports event since you screaming swears is subliminally teaching all within earshot that that’s how to talk to kids playing their hearts out in this tournament.
These are KIDS:
Did you know that at age 8, many kids develop a clearer self-identity? That they start to become more balanced when coping with frustration and failure? And that emotional regulation gets more sophisticated, and they thrive on reinforcement and confidence-building relationships? All true. But whether you’re watching 8-year-olds or teens or adults, it shouldn’t really matter. Sure, one of the kids out there might be the next Wayne Gretzky. But chances are that most of the kids out there won’t Whether they’re there for exercise, because their parents forced them to be, to get a break from video games, to try a sport and decide if they like it, for the teamwork, or to build confidence and learn strategy, they’re out there. Some are imagining themselves on a breakaway in a Stanley Cup finals game, and you insulting them from the stands isn’t helpful or respectable at all. Some may have parents going through a divorce. Others have a sick sibling. These are people — not little sports machines you can use to relive your own sports-playing days or prove some unfinished business from your past. They are kids. Just a few years ago, they were babies. Lift them up, cheer them on, praise their skill and effort,
They are learning from you. So choose your words and actions carefully.
Even the student ranked last in his class in Med School is a doctor:
Digest that for a minute. Your own doctor — a person you trust to help you manage your health and well-being, and whose expertise you actually pay to get — may have been last in his class in Med School. What’s my point? My point is that you don’t have to be the best at something to do it well or do it at all. But confidence and desire to learn and experience go a long way. Let these kids get the experience. Let them grow and learn and dream and strive and try and try harder and practice and enjoy. And STFU along the way.
They run the team. They teach the plays. They give the pep talks. They soften the blow after tough losses. And they give the constructive criticism. LET THEM DO THEIR JOB. Our team has an unwritten rule that parents don’t go in the locker room for the pre- and post-game chats. It lets the kids focus on the coach’s message, rather than hearing random comments and tips and instructions and praise and criticism from a peanut gallery of parents. It lets the coach set the tone for the team. It lets them do their job.