“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.