Saturday, February 18, 2012


So I'm going to take a couple of minutes and help all you new sports parents out.  It's almost spring time so pretty soon your little 4 year old Mia Hamm is going to be lacing up the soccer cleats and you will be heading out on Saturday mornings with your Starbucks and Lawnchairs to cheer her on.  Far too fast she is playing high school sports and the memories, pictures,  and plastic trophies are all you have left.  Some of you do the sports parent pretty well.  Some of you...... not so much......  Let me share some observations from where I sit. 

Let me share a quick resume with you.  I have coached high school basketball for 10 years.  I have spent 20 in the recreational ranks.  I have 5 children.  I am not brilliant by any means, but I do have a bit of a clue. So humor me!  And now, as my kids get older, and are  parenting their own little athletes, and three of them are entering the coaching profession its time to say some things out loud.  

#1 Someone is always better than your kid.  I'll hang on while you catch your breath.  My kids were pretty good athletes.  They collected 19 high school athletic letters between them.  They had all-conference, all-area, all-state honors.  They have a pretty decent collection of trophies, plaques, awards and other hardware.  One has a college scholarship.  There was and is, someone better than each of them.  And ya know what? It's ok.  For most of our kids sports is a great way to get them off the couch and doing something with other people.  Quit comparing your kid to anyone else. 

#2 Cheer on the entire team- Nothing grates me more than seeing the parents who sit in the stands reading a newspaper until their kid comes in.  Then all of a sudden they are cheering, the video camera is out and they are super fans.  When little Johnny goes back to the bench, Mom and Dad re-enter their coma-like state, with the only movement being to check their watch to see how many minutes their kid plays and sits the bench.  Cheer for the WHOLE team the WHOLE game.  If you want to only cheer for your kid, have them take up sports that are for one person.  Teamwork needs to happen from the parents as well as the players.  Oh, and sit with the other parents, get to know them.   When we build a community of support for our kids the better off they will be. 

#3 Don't badmouth kids on the team:  Maybe you can't see why someone is starting in front of your son or daughter.  Maybe you think the kid that is getting all the press in the newspaper is "not that good."  Teach your kid the bigger lesson by cheering on that kid.  Be complementary of the MVP that is not the fruit of your loins. My Daughter Erin played with Tasha Harris, Colorado 4A player of the year.  Guess what? She was better than Erin.   My son Mike played baseball with Stanford Standout and New York Mets baseball player Sean Ratliff. 

Guess what? He was better than Mike.  Daughter Kelly played against Baylor basketball star Melissa Jones for years.  Guess what? She was better than Kelly.  My son TJ caught passes on the football field from Washington State bound quarterback Austin Apodaca.  Guess what? He's better than TJ. 

  But you know what?  We were huge Tasha Harris fans while she was at Boise State.  We prayed for Sean Ratliff after a foul ball caused a major injury for him.  We got a thrill out of watching Melissa Jones at Baylor, and we can't wait to wear our Washington State Hoodies on game day and cheer for Austin.  Celebrate the success of others.  It does not mean you are a failure.  

#4 Quit coaching from the stands: I know.  The inbounds plays we coaches run are dumb.  The wrong kids are starting. The defense sucks. The offense is lame.   Why don't we call a time out?  It's a wonder we still have jobs!!  Here's the problem.  While you are yelling at your son to SHOOT THE BALL!  The coach asked him to set a pick.  He has to work with us all day and go home with you.  He can't win.  You want to coach your kid?  Great.  Take them out and shoot at the park.  Play catch. Go running with them.  But when your are at the game.  Be the parent.  He has a coach.  He would really like a mom and a dad.  Not an ESPN commentator who has no idea what we have been working on all week in practice.  And for heaven's sake! Let your kid listen to the coach during time outs.  If they look up at you during a time out, its a great time to stick your face in the box of popcorn! 

#5 Sports are for your kid. Not for you.   You had your turn.  Maybe you were the captain of the football team and the best thing since sliced bread.  Congratulations.  Your turn is over.  If you want to play still, go to the rec center and get a rousing game with every one else who is still living the glory days.  This is your kid's turn to have some memories.  This is your kids turn to have fun.  This is your kids turn to ride the bus,  and wear the jersey in the halls of the high school on Friday. This is your kids turn to make it or break it.  Unless you are really good with the magic 8 ball you can't control the future.  They are going to have joy, disappointment, happiness, failure, frustration, elation, and many other emotions.  Be there to LISTEN and support, and help them solve their own problems.  You don't have to step in and run to the coach if there is an issue.  Are you going to do that for them when they have a job? Call their boss? (The correct answer here is no....)  Sports are a great way to learn all of those skills in a safe, controlled environment.  Let them learn. 

#6 Sportsmanship Sportsmanship Sportsmanship.  Don't scream at the ref.  Nothing like being at a soccer game with 7 year olds playing and a 13 year old reffing listening to a Dad berate the kid on a missed call.   Clap for both teams.  Celebrate good plays on both sides.  Let your kid hear you thank the umpire on the way out.  Don't embarrass your kid, your team, your kid's school, and most importantly, yourself.  

Help your kid out- help them enjoy the game, help them learn from the game and help it  be the best experience it can possibly be.  This is supposed to be fun.  You be the grown up, have some class and help your kid become the person you really want them to be.  Because we all make a difference, one random parent at a time!