Sports Parents Are Ruining the World


To parents who wish to lead a quiet life I would say: Tell your children that they are very naughty — much naughtier than most children. Point to the young people of some acquaintances as models of perfection and impress your own children with a deep sense of their own inferiority . . . This is called moral influence . . .

— Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh

One of the moms from my son’s hockey team tells me that there’s too much “silliness” on the team, that the kids need to prepare for games with a little more seriousness.

Father and son measuring hands

That’s a fairly mild version of a not-uncommon view among sports parents, who always take the games far more seriously than the kids.

First of all, with a group of 11, 12 and 13-year-old boys, a certain amount of silliness is going to creep in, no matter what. Why is that bad?

And more importantly, even at this age — my son is 11 — most of his focus is already on more serious pursuits, i.e., school, where he has tests, assignments and homework, and he gets evaluated on all of it: A, B, C, D or F.

Pretty soon, he’ll be in high school, where he’ll have to compete against every other kid in the world who wants to get into a good college, and then he’ll have to compete against those kids to get to grad school or professional school, or to get a good job.

Eventually, he’ll be like me, where every aspect of his waking life is open to analysis and scrutiny: his job performance, how much money he makes, what kind of car he drives, where he goes on vacation . . . his wife will tell him he’s a lousy husband, and his kids will tell him he’s a bad parent.

Did I say waking life? My wife once woke me up to tell me I was sleeping in the wrong position. Who can have fun anymore with that kind of thing going on?

Back to the Present

For now, he still has a window of opportunity — a small window — where he can play games, have fun, and not be evaluated every minute. I don’t feel the need to be one of these loudmouth jackasses who sticks himself in the middle of his kids’ activities and siphons all the fun out of them.

I could do it though! I’ve seen lots of people do it. If they can do it, I can do it!

I could evaluate him after every game, every practice:

Here’s where you screwed up, and here’s what you need to do better. Didn’t you hear me screaming at you out there? Why aren’t you listening to me?

I’d have him begging to quit in six weeks max!

Starting Over

If I were going to start over in life, I’d think about getting into psychiatry. There’s no end of broken people to fix.

I see them in the workplace every day: people with “a deep sense of their own inferiority,” with pathological reactions to authority figures — a desperate need for approval from bosses and clients — and a total lack of rational perspective regarding successes and failures.

And I attribute most if not all of it to these insane people who can’t just let their kids play a game and stay the heck out of it.

  1 comment for “Sports Parents Are Ruining the World

  1. Avatar
    26 Nov 2007 at 8:28 am

    man, when i played soccer at age 14, my friend micah’s mom was so loud! she screamed at everyone the whole game. i think he only played because he was really good at soccer. i doubt he stuck with it though. i wouldnt be surprised if he gave up on physical activity altogether.
    i feel like a lot of my struggles to acquaint myself with adulthood are due to the fact that i dont feel this inferiority. i think i completely understand what you wrote about it. i govern myself whenever possible and i think that scares people. i have been told that i am too quiet for my own good. coupled with my being of mixed race in a segregated city (louisvilleKY), add to that my dreadlocks and i might as well be the boogie man walking around in broad daylight.
    i dont have a problem with authority, i love it when someone can orchestrate their ideas, i am all about helping someone realize their potential.
    if only i could live in a world of visionaries instead of the world of visually impaired.

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