Keep Calm & Cheer On.

Image from Kicking & Screaming.

Let’s face it: Most of us are not raising professional athletes. Most of us are probably not even raising college athletes. Competition being what it is these days, I think most of us are going to be lucky to raise an intramural athlete. So the sports-induced craziness seen at the courts, fields, and tracks on any given weekend seems a bit excessive to me.

I was recently at my son’s basketball game and a woman whose child was on the other team kept yelling, “C’mon guys-you’re bigger than them! You’re stronger than them! You’re better than them! Win the ball! Win the ball! WIN IT!” I should mention that at the time they were crushing us by like 50 points. Everyone in the whole gym could hear her – but I had to wonder, could she hear herself? Was she just so caught up in the Sunday morning drama of a midsized, regional, U12 basketball tournament that she lost sight of the fact that she was yelling insults at children? And that isn’t the worst thing that has happened, by a long shot. Everyone I know has a story about adults coming to blows, or cussing coaches, or making kids cry during games. This kind of child sports-induced mania is, sadly, becoming a cultural norm.

To combat this, I’ve made a list of some things you might want to keep in mind as you watch your child in his or her sport of choice.  If you already know these things, then you might want to cut this out and slip it to that red-faced parent sitting next to you on the bleachers. You know, in the spirit of goodwill. I have titled this list: It’s Just a Game: Calm the @%&* Down

  1. There is a 99.993% chance that your kid is not going pro. Calm the @%&* down.
  2. Unless your shirt says “Coach” on it, you are not the Coach. If you aren’t clear on what this means, it means that during a game you should not be yelling instructions to the players. No matter how vital you believe your advice to be.
  3. The only words you should ever say to a referee are, “Thank you.” They are doing their best. Even when they may make a mistake, it is almost never on purpose. Calling games isn’t a science; sometimes a bad call works in your favor, other times it doesn’t. File this under the category: Life ain’t fair.
  4. Your child should address their concerns with their coach by themselves. You should not get in your kid’s coach’s face with complaints about playing time, position assignments, or coaching decisions. If your child has a question, they should address it themselves. If they can’t, then either A.) They aren’t old or mature enough to be in competitive sports, B.) It isn’t that important to them, or C.) They’ll learn the very important lesson that they won’t get answers to questions they don’t ask. Either way, you asking for them isn’t helping anyone.
  5. Your kid is watching you as much as you are watching them. You know those turdlets who make nasty comments to other players on the field during a game? This is a learned behavior. I’ll bet you a year’s supply of Reduced-fat Pringle’s that their parents are doing the same thing on the sidelines.
  6. You should never say anything to anyone else’s kid other than a compliment.  I’ve heard parents yell things at kids on the other team that I wouldn’t say to my worst enemy. This is never, ever okay. Even if the little bugger raked his cleat against your son’s Achilles. You are the adult, and as such you must refrain from name-calling. (An unfortunate, but undeniable, artifact of adulthood.)
  7. You are not on ESPN. If you find yourself reporting your child’s stats to anyone who didn’t specifically ask, you should stop. Immediately. At best, this is totally uninteresting; at worst, it is supreme douchebaggery.
  8. Your child is not as good – or bad – as you think they are. You tuck them into bed at night. You take care of them when they’re sick. When you look at them, you can still see the sweet little three year-old they used to be. You cannot possibly form an objective assessment of their abilities at sports or anything else. It is a good thing this is not your job.
  9. Win or lose, the lessons are the same. The 25 year-old version of your child will probably not need the technical skills they are learning in their sport of choice. But they will need to know how to be a team player, how to lose gracefully, how to win gracefully, how to show up when they don’t want to, how to stand in someone else’s shadow, how to work with difficult people, how to know when it’s time to lead and when it’s time to follow. They may not become professional athletes, but they will become citizens of this world. And they will use the lessons they learned playing sports during this magnificent ball game we call life.
  10. There are only 6 words a parent needs to say to their kid after a game: “I love to watch you play.” This has actually been documented by researchers and other sciencey-people. Plus, it just makes good sense. Our kids just want us to have fun watching them. They want us to be proud. They want us to be there. They want us to be happy.  (But I think if you’d ask them, they’d also say that above all, they want us to be… quiet.)

12 Comments on “Keep Calm & Cheer On.”

  1. Stephanie Atkinson says:

    So very true Jill!

  2. Gretchen Chudy says:

    This is great. I especially found it helpful to hear what they most want to hear … “I love to watch you play”. Not even really “good job”. Love that. Thx!

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. stacia says:

    This is THE BEST!!! I think it’s a little sad that part of me dreads my boys getting older and further into competitive sports. Not because I dread my weekends being filled with games, or sitting out in the cold/heat, but because I dread dealing with the behavior of the PARENTS. I hope some read this and take it to heart!!!

  4. Scott Orr says:

    You nailed it!

  5. Jen Montgomery says:

    I love this! I need to make several copies of this article and hand it out at my kids’ next sporting events! Sad that there are so many crazy parents (and a few insane, screaming coaches) out there. Once again you wrote about something so important, and you made me laugh at the same time! I love the part about the REAL life lessons kids are supposed to learn from playing on a team. Amazing! 🙂 Thank you!

  6. Nicky Scheidt says:

    So true!!! I have forwarded it on to the coach in our family. 🙂

  7. L.B. Simon says:

    Oh Jill!! This is so “right on”! I have sure seen some Turdlets (my new favorite word!) through the years…sports and dance!! Every parent should read this, as it relates to every aspect of your child’s career…even academics. I thought I might barf if I heard one of the parents in Leah’s second grade class expound on her daughter’s academic prowess one more minute!!

  8. Kristin Witteborg says:

    Love this Jill!! It is so perfect and true! It’s amazing how crazy parents can be! Just a couple of weeks ago a parent on our soccer team was yelling out the high school ref at our 8 year-olds soccer game. It was insanity. Half the refs are kids themselves – take it easy people!

  9. Nissa Fendler says:

    You are awesome Jill!! I couldn’t agree more! Love the positive take always from sports that parents often loose sight of!! You go girl!

  10. MamaT says:

    Thank you! I am that parent sometimes. I love sports and my competitive nature takes over and…well..I have to remember it’s just a game. Thank you, I am going to have a shirt made that says “Keep Calm & Cheer On” and I am going to wear it to every basketball game as a reminder of what is most important.

  11. Darin Preis says:

    I just added “douchebaggery” to my list of words I’m going to work into regular conversation! This article was spot on, and hilarious. On the other end of the spectrum, I’d add, “if you’re going to go to the game, pay attention”. At our last soccer game, a guy next to me was on the phone talking as if everybody needed to hear him for an entire period. I regularly see my son glance over to see if I’m watching. It feels good in that instant to connect with him.

  12. Your style is so unique in comparison to other folks I’ve read stuff from.
    I appreciate you for posting when you’ve got the opportunity, Guess I’ll just
    book mark this blog.

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