Every once in while one hears about some crazy brawl that breaks out among parents at their children’s sporting event. Some people even face assault charges, others suffer injuries physical or otherwise, all experiencing embarrassing moments that should have never happened in the first place.
When did schools’ sport stop being about the children and start being about the parents?
Some adults get too caught up in their past athletic endeavors and try to relive them through their children. Others become over concerned with the hopes that their young athletes can gain scholarships. They push their children to become elite athletes through specialized training and personal coaches, even if their child does not want them.
Today there are thousands of boys and girls under the age of 18 who play some kind of organized sport. For many of these children, it’s a good way to make new friends and play a game that they enjoy. Children as young as 3 can sign up for swimming and gymnastics programs. Soccer often starts at 4 and rugby at 5. From there it has become increasingly common for parents to rush their kids into highly competitive situations, sometimes against the will of their own children.
This highly competitive atmosphere can often result in overly involved parents that are ready to explode at any coach, referee or other parent who interferes with their own children’s performances.
There’s a certain danger to a child’s self-esteem when parents send the message to their kids that what they’re doing isn’t valuable unless they can turn it into something material like a scholarship. More parents view their children as an economic investment that has to be translated into something later on.
Most Zimbabwean children who sign up for sports quit by the time they are 15. The main reason? It’s not fun anymore. I remember talking to an elderly lady at Les Brown during the MCD Junior Swimming Trials. She said, “These young children are a joy to watch, still very innocent and you can tell they are enjoying themselves.”
Here’s some advice for parents on how to avoid becoming crazed, overbearing sports parents with a stressed-out, unhappy child:
- Reward your child whether the team wins or loses
- If you have a complaint or concern, wait until after the game to address it
- Applaud when either team makes a good play
- Praise effort
- Respect the referee’s calls
- Don’t get too caught up in scores or statistics
- Ask your child if they had fun before asking if they won
It can be very stressful to see your own child play, but parents need to consider what sports are like from a kid’s perspective. Playing sports as a child are all about having fun and making new friends. It’s a great form of exercise and something that can teach children values that can be applied to everyday life. Encourage your child to have fun and be a good teammate, the rest will follow if it is meant to be.