Childhood Sports Abuse
He was a twelve year old red head, and as he walked to the plate he already looked defeated. For along time he had been good friends with my son… until they ended up on a baseball team together. Recently this young red head had taken to verbally abusing his team mates during the baseball games. His behavior was so out of control that parents had started to complain to the coaches. I worked with his mother for years but, his father I met at the first practice. His father who stood on the sidelines yelling every time his pitch was too high or dropped short, his father who berated him every time he missed a ball.
This poor red head that would could never be good enough. He was one of the best players on the team and yet he would never know it. As I watched him strike out that day I felt bad for him because, I knew what would happen next. When the third pitch hit the glove his father started yelling from behind the backstop. One of the coaches was a good friend of mine and we had a long talk about this situation. I started yelling good things at this child who was carrying so much stress, anger, and anxiety.
The red head boy walked to the dugout and threw a bat in the dugout and started crying. Thankfully no one was hit and the boy sat in the dugout through the next inning crying. He had all he could take, parents were not allowed in the dugout and this was truly the only place the boy was safe from his father. I talked to his mother several times pleading with her to back her husband off her son, she just kept insisting that he wanted the son to be the best.
This was not the first time I watched a parent destroy a child over extracurricular activities. In the eight years I coached soccer, I saw parents get crazy screaming, berating and even punishing children for missed goals, lost passes, and losing a game. In that eight years I bet none of those kids remembered the games they won or lost. Yet, few of the same kids will ever forget how horrible their parents were to them.
Most kids playing sports will never make it onto a college team. That is a reality. The few who do make it to college level sports will probably never be drafted professionally. So why do parents insist on terrorizing their children over sports? Because parents believe a child’s success is a reflection of them. Children are not successful in life because of parents. At some point a child takes responsibility for themselves and makes their own decisions.
There is something to be said for a parent who raises a child with morals and teaches the child to have the right attitude. Regardless of who that child becomes, life is going to kick that child around. The best thing you can teach them is to keep a good attitude and never quit. When parents over emphasize sports or other activities as defining a child as a winner or loser, they are setting that child up to be unhappy.
Sports and other activities are important because, they teach children to work as a team, they teach a child how to take a loss and enjoy a win. These activities are important for social development. Sports should be fun for the child. That’s right fun! Not a dredge, not a nightmare not something they are forced to do…but a fun activity where they can burn off some energy. Parents who take activities too serious are setting their kids up to fail. At some point most of these kids are going to rebel when they realize they can’t please their parents.
The missed catch, short throw, and low pitch are not nearly as important as a child. I have told my son over and over that he needs to play the game because; the game is fun not because I want him to. I hope he teaches his own sons the importance of giving sports your best effort and the importance of enjoying the game. Watching my kids grow up I realized that fifteen minutes after a game the kids forgot all about losing or winning, because after all …they were just kids.
How to know when its too much... And what to do
1. If a child cries or throws tantrums at a sporting event that child should be pulled from the game.
2. If a parent persistently interferes with coaches or is yell negative things at the game, the coach has a responsibility to pull that parent aside and set perimeters for behavior.
3. When a child verbally attacks other players, coaches should always address the behavior.
4. If a parent is completely unreasonable and out of control then they should be banned from the field. (we had to do this one year with a father who was cussing at players)
If you are the parent who is out of control, seek counseling. Chances are good that you have some issues that you need to work through.