Truth time: Are you the embarrassing parent at your kid’s games? Is it time for a change? Right here we are talking about how to stop being an embarrassment at your child’s games and how to start modeling good sportsmanship for everyone around you!
This post is not for the mom or dad that respectfully cheers for the great plays made by each team. Or the mom or dad who behaves themselves at game-time, makes friends with the other parents of the competition, and high fives the referees after the game even when the other team won.
This one is just for the mom or dad who loses their cool on more than one occasion, at each and every game when things start going the wrong way for their kid’s team.
You know the one. The one who screams at the ump and throws down their hat when he called a strike when it was “clearly too high.”
Or the parent who freaks out and starts arguments with the parents of the opposing team. You know the one.
Or worse of all, the one that yells, mocks, or rants openly at other players on the opposing team. Oh, that is bad.
If YOU are the ONE, then this is for you.
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If I look back on some of my most embarrassing moments as a sports mom I would have to say I wasn’t too bad. I did ask my kids about this today and they couldn’t think of too many times that I openly embarrassed them.
But If I think about it, the moments I would change were perhaps more internal and private. They were thoughts like “that the ump stinks and needs to retire.” “Why is my kid riding the bench? Doesn’t the coach know how good she really is?” Or thinking “I can’t sit in enemy territory. Those moms, ugh. That dad is so full of himself and his kid’s abilities. If I sit here I need to be just as loud for our team and just as obnoxious.” Or whispering to myself “please, please, please drop that ball, kid.”
I know I have been guilty of being just a little too rambunctious in my cheering to stick it to the other team. Or I have hoped for a pitcher to throw balls or a girl to miss her foul shots.
What is wrong with me? Games were becoming too stressful and I knew I needed to make a personal change.
If you have other kids joining you at the field to watch games, you have the utmost responsibility to demonstrate what good sportsmanship is to them. They are watching you mom or dad. They really are.
Be a good example for them, and more than that, let games be a fun experience for them too.
When I lightened up, I finally really began to fully enjoy watching my girls compete and play their hearts out. It became fun. Win or lose.
It’s not too late to change. Here’s how.
It’s just a Game
I had to look up the definition of GAME in the dictionary just to see what it said.
Game: a form of play or sport, esp a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength or luck.
This was true, the games my daughters play (softball, basketball and now track) are decided by skill, strength, speed and sometimes luck.
But none of it is a reflection of me. It’s not my skill in question out there, it’s not my strength, it’s not my speed, it’s not my luck. It is only theirs that is being tested in the game they play on any given day.
This was a big wakeup call. We all want our kids to try their best. To put their best effort forward.
What if that effort is not a match for their opponent’s skill, strength or luck on that day? Does that make your child less than? Does that mean you are a bad parent or you did not give your best in preparing your child? Is it the referee’s fault? Is it the coach’s fault? Is it because the other parents on the opposing team are jerks? Of course not.
Let’s stop. Take a breath. Realize it’s just a game. It’s playtime. It’s supposed to be fun!
Well, what if we try to reframe our expectations. Reflect on the following truths and see if it can help you lighten up at game time and help you actually enjoy the game.
Our kids are amateurs
If your child is not being paid to play (not professionals) then let them have fun! They are not going to perform at the level of professional players right now. Especially if they are still children. Let’s put our head’s on straight for a minute here.
Let them have fun and enjoy their short childhoods already.
Incidentally, the other team is also made up of children who are trying to have fun too.
Why then are you secretly hoping that other child screws up a play and drops that ball? Oh, you are telling me you have never secretly (or openly) wished this, huh?
You are not a bad person. You really are not. We ALL get caught up in that from time to time. But it is time to check that feeling. It is so hard to master it, so hard. Especially if you are competitive in nature and/or played sports yourself.
Still, let us not cheer when another kid makes a mistake. That’s awful when you stop and think about it.
It is not good sportsmanship to desire that an innocent child has a bad day at the field so your child can win.
Your kid doesn’t want to win a game because of another kid’s many errors. Where is the pride in that?
Instead, keep the focus on your team excelling in their skill.
If your team hits a 3 run HR, or a nasty 3 point jump shot celebrate that accomplishment. Don’t cheer emphatically when another team makes an error. See the difference?
Our lives should not be personally impacted by the outcome of the game.
Our life should not be personally impacted in a lasting way by the outcome of a game of play. So why then are we screaming threats at the umpire and second-guessing his ophthalmologist’s prescription recommendation?
Come on now, that person is not making a great living umping your son’s baseball game so lay off and cut them some slack. They need to be paid something because who would volunteer to get screamed at every day by coaches and parents?
This is just a game after all. What does it matter in the great scheme of life if they make a call you happen to disagree with?
Why should they need to worry about making it to their car safely after a game?
They are just regular folks who put on pads and a uniform to keep from getting nailed by a 50mph softball in the shoulder or you know where else. Cut them some slack!
And by the way, if you think you are never going to see that particular ump/ref again you might be sadly mistaken. So behave yourself with the person who calls the game if you care so much about it.
You don’t need that ump coming to the next game your team plays holding a grudge. And besides, they are just decent human beings like you are, and they don’t deserve that kind of treatment.
What is our End Game?
What is your end game here? Why do you care so much?
Are you secretly relying on your child to pay her way through college with their sport and therefore are putting so much pressure on the outcome of each game because your kid’s reputation depends on it?
If your goal is for your child to have fun, exercise, gain skills and confidence, then you would never dream of telling off the coach for a bad play call, right?
This is something only you can think about, what is your end goal? Are you putting too much pressure and sucking all the fun out of this for your kid?
Most kids don’t drop a sport because they stop enjoying playing the sport itself. They drop it because there is too much pressure surrounding each competition and it sucks all the fun right out of it! It becomes too stressful. Their young lives are stressful enough without adding the stress of competitive sports, and unreasonable parents on top of it.
When stress and pressure outweigh the fun, enjoyment, camaraderie, and fulfillment found on the field, what is the motivation to continue? Because you say they have to do it? That won’t last, my friend. I promise you that.
These folks are going to see you again
The opposing team and their parents
You will see the opposing team, and their coaches, and their parents again many times over if your child continues to play. Not just this season, but every season until your child is done with the sport.
If they are in the same age bracket, guess what? Your child will keep seeing them throughout their career in amateur sports.
So think about that when you are getting ready to start a fight with the mom mouthing off from the other team.
Can you be a decent human being so you’re not mortified or worse come to every game with a huge chip on your shoulder because you behaved badly last time and you feel justified?
Guess what else? Your child might actually end up on the same team as some of these kids if they play on travel teams or tournament teams outside your town. Maybe your child would like to actually get along with her new teammates. Think about that.
Maybe you might need to rely on those parents for something once you are teammates. How embarrassed would you feel if you found yourself on the same team as that other dad you cursed out 2 years ago? Don’t do this to yourself or your kid.
The other parents are just trying to do right by their kids, same as you.
Umpires and Referees
I already talked about the umpires and referees you will see time and again in your child’s career. Behave.
And let’s end this with the other coaches. As you very well know, coaches are usually volunteers. They are not usually paid for their endless hours of work. I have witnessed time and time again behind the scenes, what a coach needs to do to prepare for games and practices.
Endless phone calls to coordinate, texts and emails to communicate with other coaches, parents, and players. Planning plays and lineups. Leaving work early and making up the lost time late at night or before dawn, all so they can get to the field to work on practice and developing players, not to mention multiple games per week. They are volunteering to help children grow and develop.
No. It’s a lot. They deserve hugs, high fives and lots of praise. They do not deserve grief over what you think would have been a better choice of lineups, calls, etc. They deserve to be treated with respect.
They also don’t need you coaching from the sidelines or the stands. Zip it and let your coach tell your child what they need to do out there. Of this, I am the most guilty. I just can’t help it sometimes, but I am getting so much better at it now.
Do not be a distraction out there for your team.
And what if an opposing coach that you had a shouting match with ends up coaching your kid in a future season? How embarrassing if you were rude to them in the past.
You can probably kiss your kid getting good playing time goodbye. We don’t want to think that would happen, that a coach would take our behavior out on our kid, but let’s just be honest with ourselves, it wouldn’t help how they view our child.
Be nice. Be a good sport. Just demonstrate good sportsmanship people!
Remember, there is a loser in every game too.
There is a winner called in every game and there is a loser in every game too. Be graceful losers when it happens to be your team’s turn.
Be graceful winners when it’s your team’s time to celebrate. Those other players might be stinging a bit. Cheer them up and tell them what a good job they did (which lets them know that they matter more than what the end score says.)
Same with your players when they win or lose.
Decide to make a change at the next game and take baby steps towards good sportsmanship.
So, do not embarrass your kid anymore on the softball (insert your kid’s sport here) field (court, rink, track, etc).
Cheer cheerfully for your team and respect your opponent. And teach your children to do the same. It’s not too late.
When you catch yourself doing some of the no-no’s above, and you stop yourself, give yourself a pat on the back. You are changing for the better.
Show how well good sportsmanship can save the day at the field next game, and let your kids learn by your good example.
You’ll enjoy the game and look forward to it a lot more too.
To listen to the audio/podcast version of this post check out the Joy in Chaos Podcast on iTunes, Sticher and Google Play. Subscribe to the podcast if you like what you hear.
P.S. If you are feeling frazzled before each game, that could put you on edge before you even settle down to watch the game. If that is regularly the case, pick up the Frazzled Mom’s Epic Guide to Softball Season below.
When the coming of Spring brings a groan that spring sports season has arrived, rather than relief that winter is over, it may be time to reevaluate how you handle the stress of spring sports season.
The Frazzled Mom’s Epic Guide to Softball Season will act as a guide and checklist to use every week to help you feel prepared and on top of things.
Share it with your other softball moms and teammates too! Pick it up in the Resource Library along with all the other softball tools.
How to Joyfully Survive the Softball Tournament Season
How to Make a Softball Tournament fun for the Whole Family
How to help Frazzled Moms Conquer Softball Season Chaos
Chandra is the chocolate-chip loving mother of 2 teenage girls who started over again with a baby boy in her 40’s! She is the author of The Mom’s Playbook to Conquering Softball Season. She gives other moms the tools they need to prepare their daughters for real life. Her content is centered on helping girls grow up to be well-rounded, equipped, expressive, confident, intelligent, capable, kind and independent.