Youth sports has consumed a large portion of my life. More than I ever thought was possible. From T-ball and Pop Warner to softball and now lacrosse recruiting tournaments, I've seen all ranges of athletic skill. I've also seen a pretty narrow range of spectators.
I’m a people-watcher. I love to eavesdrop on the conversations of strangers. Oh quiet, I’m not the only one who does it. I especially love eavesdropping at the tournaments mostly because the people there are more varied than regular league games and I’m always curious to see how parents react to their child’s endeavors.
I had several opportunities for eavesdropping this past weekend. I spent a mostly gorgeous sunny Sunday with my dear hubby watching the boy do his thing at a lacrosse recruiting tournament. It was great to just hang out with Pat in the bleachers watching the game before Dylan’s. We were laughing and talking when I started to tune-in to the crowd noise. The “Ahs” and “Ohs” emanating from the nearby spectators. The shouts of “Slide” and “Wheels”. Disclaimer: If by the time I’m done with sports and I have not engaged in real physical harm to a fellow parent for incessantly yelling it; it will be a minor miracle. Honestly, sitting in the stands yelling “Wheels” is the least helpful bit of advice you can shout at the field. That and “Get the ball!” Really? That's your advice Einstein!
I have, over my many years of careful scientific observation, detected certain “types” who frequent these events. These, of course, are not all encompassing but I think most of us will recognize some of them. We may even recognize ourselves. Hey, if you have any others, please chime in under the comments! (ps, the big bosses LOVE that!)
Clueless Parent: You know, the one who wanders the crowd asking everyone and anyone for an update or a rule explanation. “Can they do that?” and “Why do they hit so hard?” or “Shouldn't they have a water break?” mostly though "What's the score?" I have to say, this is generally me for I am not paying attention to what is happening on the field for I am actively, scientifically, observing (talking), and miss everything.
Frustrated Coach: Also known as Shut-The-Hell-Up parent. They are the one always shouting instructions to the players on the field. More often than not the instructions are wrong and unhelpful (think “Wheels”; also "Slide"). Plus, the players aren't listening anyhow because they’re busy running or being hit with sticks or simply not paying paying attention to the sidelines.
Gasper the Empath: That parent who feels every missed opportunity their child makes as if they themselves are in physical pain. These are generally the ones responsible for the “Ohs” and “Ahs”. The really committed gaspers are also advanced “Wincers”.
I would be remiss if I did not mention everyone’s all-time favorite parent!
Parent of a Future Professional Athlete: Butt-head for short. The one who only cheers for their own kid and who only wants to discuss their child’s progress and accomplishments. The parent that is quick to point out your child’s flaws and obvious inferiority and are even quicker to blame a teammate (like your child) when Jack or Jill misses a goal or opportunity to impress everyone watching.
Of course these are caricatures and I’m most likely not going to harm anyone that yells “Wheels,” but as parents we need to understand that we are there to cheer and encourage; maximizing our kid’s experiences and giving them the tools they need to be successful at anything they do.
Making ourselves crazy isn’t going to change the outcome on the field. It’s just going to make us crazy(ier).
Sit back, relax and ENJOY the game!
Barbara Mulvey-Welsh is a mother, writer and blogger raising kids and a husband in Plymouth. Check out her blog at "Did I Say That Out Loud?" Use caution when reading around the family, there is some strong language.