What’s up youth sports parents? I’m not talking about the bad behavior, the unbearable pressure they place upon their kids or the laughable yet undying belief their young player is going pro because they are good at the age of eight. I’m talking about the lack of involvement, of helping out when needed, far too often the norm. Parents are an integral part of youth sports. I wrote about youth sports being an arrangement between the coach, the player and their parents a while back. That contract is a two-way deal.
My son’s soccer team wrapped up its season this past weekend. There was one referee at the first game and each team was asked to have a parent man one sideline. It is not uncommon, and it is not the first time I was given the flag. I don’t mind. Though the other team’s parents outnumbered us threefold, not one of them could be bothered to do the same. They sent a six-year-old kid instead. Are you kidding me?
I’ve seen the same as a baseball coach. After a furious but fast rain storm, our first game last season, our first game ever, was delayed for 30 minutes. Both teams’ coaches were asked if we would recruit some parents to help get the field ready. I asked a group of my parents, and I could tell by the look of disdain on one of the parent’s face there was no way he was helping out. Ten minutes later, I look up to see three or four of my parents sweeping, raking, laying down Quick Dry® and the one parent camped out in his lawn chair three feet away watching them work.
I don’t get it. With my son’s soccer team, I help set up the goals, lug the 50lb sandbags required to secure the goals, line the field, put up the corner flags, basically whatever is needed. Heck, in my son’s second game this weekend, I even coached the first half because his real coach forgot one of the player cards required by whatever governing body there is and he felt so terrible he drove home to get it so the kid could play in the second half. This after having to go pick up three kids and bring them to the game so we could field a team in the first place. (As an aside, the boys played as good a half as they’ve played all year. I’m just saying.) I’m happy to do whatever I’m asked for many reasons. First and foremost, I am going to make sure my son and his teammates (in that order, I am a parent after all) get to do what they enjoy most, play soccer. Second, I know only too well how much the coach has on his plate and he can’t do it all by himself. Third, I know the coach doesn’t like having to ask me to pitch in, but he’s doing it because it’s the only way he will be able to give the kids the attention they deserve and need.
I’m not saying I am better than anyone else because I help out. I do understand the beauty of sitting on the sidelines and watching your child play. I understand the allure of coalescing and kvetching with the other parents because, lord knows, they’ve become your constant weekend companions. But if you see the coach going to the car for the third time to get yet another bag of equipment your kid will need during the game maybe you should ask if you can grab something. Youth sports isn’t about you or your wants and needs. The single focus of youth sports is your child, and the objectives should be your child being active, having fun, learning how to function within a team, playing their hardest and getting better at whatever sports they play. Sometimes as a parent you need to enable the opportunity for your child to play. Sometimes you have to do a little work that goes beyond paying and playing chauffeur. Sometimes you need to participate. This isn’t day care after all.