Last Night, I Was One of “Those” Sports Parents

(This piece originally appeared on the author’s blog, Harrison3.com)

As we prepare for the (REDACTED) Playoffs starting tomorrow, all players, parents and coaches are reminded that you are expected to conduct yourselves in line with the s Code of Conduct … There has been a noticeable increase in the level of poor sportsmanship and berating officials, especially among the older leagues.
Perhaps this is due to bad examples set by college/professional players and seen on tv, or stuff that is permitted in other leagues. Either way, the (REDACTED) will not tolerate players, coaches or parent spectators attempting to show up referees, berating referees about calls/non-calls, taunting other players, intentionally yelling or making noises while opposing players are attempting shots, etc. It’s unfortunate that this message is necessary, but please know that this behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated going forward.
We look forward to the playoffs starting tomorrow, and a great end to an otherwise fun season. Good luck to everyone the rest of the way.
 — Email sent last night from our local basketball league to all parents
Stef Curry has made a new generation of kids fall in love with the 3, even on the fast break … and chewing on mouthpieces

Last night was my eldest son’s final game of the season, before the playoffs.

It’s been a tough 18 months for him — he missed more than a full year of sports (including hoops) due to two knee surgeries. He was late in joining the team — then in just his second game back, he hit a slick patch on the floor and broke his wrist. Six more weeks.

He loves sports (soccer and hoops particularly) and worked hard to get back. When he returned, though, it was to a team that lacked chemistry — two players, occasionally a third, dominated the ball. Now mind you, they are probably the best players on the team, but in 7th grade hoops, (I believe) the goal is to involve ALL players, to the extent they want to be involved.

That wasn’t happening. My son would be wide open on the fast break, and our point guard would shoot a three in double-coverage. And miss. Or do a wild drive to the hoop, ignoring an open player on the block. Or make a successful layup, hit a midrange jumper or find our big man for a shot.

Again, many of the times he or our big man shot, it would be successful. But still, it was ultimately two, sometimes three, players on the court watching two players pass back and forth.

And that’s when I let eighteen months of frustration get the best of me.

As I go back through my mental tape of last night’s game, there’s a slight chance I caused that email above to be sent.

“Hey black team — you’ve got 5 players out there, not two. PASS THE BALL!”
“You’re not Stef Curry for God’s sake. Don’t pull up for a three on a fast break!”
— the author, quotes that were, unfortunately, not part of an internal dialogue, but yelled at a bunch of 13 year olds

My family was angry with me. My son, while frustrated, was livid at me. I had to leave the gym at one point — and pace around the hallway and breathe, re-living the lessons my good pal Andy from Headspace taught me.

I really could have used Andy — not his voice, the real Andy — last night.

Later, I spent most of the night defending myself, with with self-righteousness. How can you be mad at me when I’m trying to speak up for my son? Can’t you see the inmates are running the asylum?

This morning, I woke with a different feeling — shame. A Google search of “parents ruining kids’ sports” comes back with thousands of results. This one, “10 Ways You’re Embarassing Your Kids at their Sporting Events,” nailed it best. (Plus, I love digestible lists.)

I didn’t have to get past number 1:

1. Yelling From the Stands or Sidelines
Athletes and parents in attendance don’t need to hear your attempts to coach or egg on your kid. Plus, your kid probably won’t even hear you — or pay attention — when he or she is in action. But rest assured, their teammates sitting on the bench will hear every. single. word.

Now, it’s not apples-for-apples. I wasn’t yelling at my kid — but I was yelling, and I was trying to coach.

Wow. I was one of THOSE parents.

Maybe my intentions were good. But all that said:

  • These are 13 year old kids.
  • I was angry at the kids for not distributing the ball. Again, these kids are 13. And this is how they’ve played all season. It’s incredibly unfair for me to come in at week 12 and criticize.
  • I am not the coach.
  • I would hate other parents who did what I did.
  • It isn’t that important. If my son is frustrated, he’ll bring it up with me. Or not.

My own lack of athletic prowess is no secret. I don’t think this had anything to do with that — sure, I remember being frozen out by the better players, but I’d like to think this was purely my own desire to see my son be included. And desire is the right word — ultimately, this came from a place at the junction of parental concern, selfishness and lack of control.

To my son, his teammates, the coaches and other parents, I am truly sorry.

My son has a playoff game tonight. Last night I learned who the adult was — and it wasn’t me. Tonight, I hope I can be the adult.

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