Snippets from the Sidelines

“You only get so much field time because your parents are friends with the coach.”

You always get the solos because your mom volunteers in the class so much.”

“I always score low because you’re so competitive and intimidate me.”

“You’ll  never get into the college you want if you stay in this school district.”

“Only weird kids are in the gifted classes.”

Believe it or not, those are all statements that have been said to my children by another student or team member. It is crazy to me that a young child could even come up with some of those thoughts. It’s as if they were coached on the best ways to be sarcastic or intimidate their peers.

Hmmm…or else, they simply have incredibly acute eaves dropping skills.

What you say on the sidelines gets noticed by more than the adults in the stands. Every snarky comment about someone else’s child, every disputed decision made by your coach and certainly every bitter shout-out directed to a judge or referee does not fall on deaf ears. I know, because not only have I endured seasons of over competitive, cranky, complaining parents, but my children have been the recipient of many biting and hurtful comments. I understand that it’s sometimes hard to refrain from emotionally charged statements about our children’s performance on or off the field, but we are adults, we should know how to discern. When I hear parents say things like, “just watch out, my daughter will out score you next time” or “it’s about time we beat you” I simply smile and nod. Those are not humorous comments, even if said in a light-hearted way. The only purpose is to intimidate or snub. However, I’m a grown-up. I have a thick skin and can decide not to engage. I also understand sarcasm and attempted humor. But when we continually say these things in front of our children, they get a skewed vision of what healthy competition looks like. It’s our job to set good examples, teach them how to work together, to support one another and be an encouragement rather than a detriment to the overall health of the team. It’s also our job to teach them how to be responsible for their own performance.

I do not believe that these cutting sideline conversations are harmless. When comments lead your child to believe that their losses are the direct result of unfair advantages or that their achievements are due to some level of entitlement, you are stealing from them their ability to be accountable and in control of their own actions.

Some parents throw out the expression, “If you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen”, but I don’t think that is the solution. Pulling my children out of their sports programs will not teach them how to deal with the ups and downs of life. Plus, I do not believe in non-competitive sports. I do not believe that “everybody is a winner”. I do not believe that you have to be friends with everyone on your team.

But I do believe that there is a right and a wrong way to be competitive, and I absolutely believe that we have to be respectful of others at all times.

3 thoughts on “Snippets from the Sidelines

  1. This article rings so true and mirrors many of our own experiences. The unfortunate fact also, is that SOMETIMES (few and far-between) some of the statements can be and are true. Our son once lost out on a leading role in a musical he was cast in because the parents had too much community influence. (The director sadly and with regret told us this – he apparently had no other choice.) This kid alo attained “Eagle Scout” status at the age of 12 (!) for the same reason, and it is sad. We taught our children, however, to be first and foremost hard-working and proud of their accomplishments, whatever they did. Losing is a very good teacher – much better than winning, because it is excellent preparation for life later on!

    That said, it seems that too many prents do not know that “children will listen.” They carry the odor of their home on their clothing; yet still those parents are surprised when their children turn out as vindictive bullies! Our youngest was so fortunate to have been part of what we call the perfect little league baseball team! Every parent in the stands cheered all the players, both teams, and were encouraging to all and very polite, as well as helping all the kids to strive to do their best and enjoy the competition. While our team was not the winningest team, it was the most enjoyable, and I cn’t tell you how many of the kids on other teams told our team members that they wished they were part of our team – that we always had fun, and still improved on our skills, and every single child played in every single game. It was a wonderful experience for our son, and the source of life-long memories as well as an education he can pass on to his own children.

    Thanks for a great post – one that is needed. Hope you aren’t just “preaching to the choir!” 😀

  2. This last year our soccer league reinstituted a mandatory parents meeting before the season started. This was because they had had some instances of poor behavior on the part of the parents the year before. Sad. Sad. Sad. When I was at that meeting however, I realized that the people who showed up were probably not the people who were the problem (for the most part). They didn’t take roll or anything, so mandatory is a relative term.
    Maybe they should have a way for negative sideline behavior to effect the actual score of the game. I’d bet they’d shape right up then.
    I always tell my son that we don’t wish for anybody to lose. We wish for them to play a really good game and us to play even better.
    We watch a lot of NASCAR in our house (!) and one of the announcers came of with a word that I really like: coopetition. Because even though the teammates are competing against each other, they will help each other out. At least until the last couple laps 🙂

  3. I so agree with your comments. I too have witnessed many negative comments from both students and surrounding parents in the bleachers. Sometimes it it obvious by the responses you hear that these comments are shared around their dinner table. This is truly sad and upsetting.

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