Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Poor Parenting in Action: When People Need to Shut Up

  Last night, I witnessed some really poor parent behavior in action. The story is worth sharing because if you are a parent and your kid plays football or other team sports, you might run into a similar situation if you already haven’t. It took place at the close of a practice scrimmage for my son’s varsity football team. Here’s how it went down:

  With only a few days left before the start of the season, the coaches decided to have a practice scrimmage against the JV (Junior Varsity) team. The goal is to give everyone a chance to play and see how they fare. All the coaches are volunteers and they don’t get paid for their time and effort, which can be considerable when you factor in the after work commute and all the preparation that goes into planning a practice.

  Every few downs, the coaches ask the kids who hasn’t been in the game yet. The players are supposed to stay close to the coaches on the sideline and raise their hand to let the coaches know if they haven’t been given any playing time. Usually this system works OK, but the starters still seem to get more action than some of the other kids. Unfortunately, one kid got passed up last night. I don’t know whether or not he didn’t raise his hand when prompted, or maybe he was just shy. Maybe he wasn’t paying attention, I don’t really know. But I can tell you that the exchange between the father and the coach after practice was not a very pretty sight. The father was obviously very irritated that his son was not included, and he let the coach know in no uncertain terms how he felt. Specifically, he called the coach a “ f***ing a-hole” and a “motherf***r” in front of the whole team as well as the other parents. The coach responded by getting equally pissed off and letting everyone know that he drives an hour each way to give his time every night, and that he doesn’t “need this s**t”.

  While the kid in question is somewhat overweight, I don’t think his being overlooked was intentional by any means. It gets dark earlier now and there are no lights on the field, so sometimes it’s hard to tell who is who. Also, there are four different coaches, and for some reason, the parent singled out the offensive coordinator as the perpetrator of the perceived injustice. Although he is not the head coach, he is probably the most vocal coach and as football coaches often do, they yell. I’m not saying that this is a good thing, but it seems to be part of the game.

  I know that the kid probably felt bad because as a youngster, I was short and heavy and not particularly athletic. Usually, I was one of the last kids to be picked whenever teams were chosen, so I can understand the parent’s desire to be an advocate for his son. However, the ugliness that ensued cast a dark cloud over the whole situation and left the whole team feeling bad.

  Aside from the obvious bad example that the parent set, the situation points to a more pervasive problem that exists with a lot of parents in general. In an effort to make sure that their children are given fair treatment, some parents will do anything, even if it means embarrassing themselves in public. As role models for our youth, this is simply unacceptable. Kids today are constantly being reminded to not bully others and to report bullying by their peers to adults. Through their contradictory words and actions, parents expose their hypocritical nature for all to see. The result is to further erode our youth’s confidence in adults at a time in their lives when they may desperately need to make sense of an often confusing world.

  The really sad thing about this incident is that the kid who was overlooked will probably experience some backlash from the coach and possibly from his teammates. I hope I am wrong. In the end, the father did no favor for his kid by verbally attacking the coach and putting on a public display of anger for everyone assembled. We may even be without an offensive coordinator for our opening game this weekend, and that would indeed be a real shame.