Children, in general, suck at sports. And as a parent, watching them suck evokes all kinds of emotions—fierce protectiveness, embarrassment, self-loathing (Oh God, I gave them those genes)—which many of us have difficulty handling. My kid played second-grade basketball this winter, and when she failed to make a shot the entire season, it took everything in my power not to storm the court, clear out an area around the basket with police tape, and let her shoot until she got the fucking thing in.
Being a sports parent is a remarkable test of self-restraint. We’re so used to being sports fans and watching pro and college sports played at a high level that it’s jarring to witness children flail as they learn the idea of sports: competing, knowing the rules, positioning yourself to make a play, etc. This is assuming your child even wants to learn. Half the time, my kid stood at midcourt chatting with friends, only to have the ref come up and say, “Hey, guys, you have to actually play now.” And this is before you factor in all the other parents and coaches acting like dicks and raising your blood pressure even more.
That’s when the yelling begins. That’s when you go from silently clapping to breaking the ice with a “Get back on D, son!” to going Full Pitino. That crazy dad next to you, drenching everyone in frothed spittle? He was you once. And if you aren’t careful, you could become him. Here’s how to keep that from happening.
1. Only the coach gets to coach. He (or she) is the one who volunteered his time for the gig. He’s the one who planned the practices and coordinated the schedule and reserved court time at the nearby Sportsthunderplex. He’s the one who drags that big-ass mesh bag filled with balls from his car every weekend. If you’re not willing to make that sacrifice, you don’t get to show up on game day and act like you’re Nick Saban.
2. Don’t get too jealous of that one good kid on the field. Every kiddie game features at least one child who is a genetically superior mutant sent from the future. She can make shots. She plays tight defense. She runs fast. She never gets distracted by shiny whistles. This mini Bron-Bron will NEVER be your kid. Your kid will look like an invalid by comparison, and that is (deep breath) okay. At this level, every sports league is an experiment. Some kids get the hang of it right away. Some kids are late bloomers. And some kids want practice to end so they can go watch Frozen for the sixtieth time. So don’t get discouraged when a ringer comes along. Chances are that kid will burn out and become an alkie by 17, and you’ll have the last laugh!