Soccer Mom

Welcome to the "On Balance" guest blog. Every Tuesday, "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Writers need to use their full names. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.

By Maggie Leifer McGary

It all started when I went to see my 11-year-old daughter's championship soccer game. Soccer is not my bag; for the most part, her dad attends practices and games. What does that say about me as a mom that I don't make every soccer game or hockey match? In today's kid-centric society, admitting I don't feel it necessary to attend every sports event is tantamount to announcing that I'm a crack addict.

As I was watching the big game, I tried to remember, back when I swam as a kid, whether any dads ever attended practices or meets. Then suddenly, snapping me out of my reverie, a guy jumped from his chair and screamed at his daughter on the field, "Goddamn it--pay attention!" As the game went on he kept up a constant stream of equally abusive "cheers."

The next day, I sent an e-mail to the director of the soccer organization expressing my horror at what seemed acceptable parental behavior by other bystanders. Still fired up, I offhandedly made a comment on a local paper's Web site in the "Speak Out" section. I figured my online tirade would be tucked away in cyberspace along with the thoughts of everyone else who was "speaking out" on personal pet peeves.

Wrong. A few days later I got an e-mail from a friend saying "Bravo! Your comments were right on." Then I got a text from another friend crowning me "Outspoken in Olney." When I got home that night I unearthed the previous day's issue of The Gazette and saw my rant had been printed in the Opinions page, preceded by a headline craftily written by someone other than me: "Are Parents Ruining Sports for their Kids?" followed by my full name.

Then a friend told me that my "letter" had caused quite a stir and the local sports club was launching some kind of investigation. I had no idea my personal account and comments would spark such an outrage.

What role does "balance" play in kids' sports today? Are you a bad parent if you opt out of your kids' activities? Or the other extreme -- becoming so emotionally involved that you curse your kid from the sidelines? How can you find the so-called happy medium that's best for you and your kid?


Maggie Leifer McGary is a former stay-at-home mother who now works as a Web writer and developer. She lives in Olney, Md., with her husband and two children. She writes about balance and other random issues on her blog, Motherwhatnowredux.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  January 8, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Guest Blogs
Previous: Passing a Girl the Ball | Next: Playroom Pitfalls


Add On Balance to Your Site
Keep up with the latest installments of On Balance with an easy-to-use widget. It's simple to add to your Web site, and it will update every time there's a new entry to On Balance.
Get This Widget >>


Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



I'm not sure what the title "Soccer Mom" has to do with the premise of your commentary, but with regard to overinvolved parents, I tend to agree. While I think it is a national problem (parental misbehavior), it is even more intense here in the DC region. I've lived elsewhere and I think in other places, parents are a little more laid back and less helicopterish.

And I'm not so sure that you should care what anyone else thinks about your attendance at your child's games. It may all be in your head anyway. My daughter plays high level soccer and at least on our team, I don't think anyone notices if a parent is not there. Please, some of us have our own lives too. I do think it may be a function of all of us having our own careers and not being stay at home parents where we have time to navel gaze about this.

With regard to abusive side-line parents--I would normally advise telling these jerks to be quiet. In fact, I think all of the leagues have rules about parents yelling out instructions on the sidelines. However, if someone is that much of a jerk, I'd be afraid of what that idiot would do to me. Doesn't your team have a coach and manager? Could you not have asked either to tell this parent to stop?

Posted by: commentator3 | January 8, 2008 7:04 AM

Maggie, even crack addicts get more respect than absentee soccer moms.

Posted by: GutlessCoward | January 8, 2008 7:07 AM

I've found that it's possible for the parent to get more invested in the sport or activity than the child.

With a job and busy schedule sometimes the other soccer/scout/church/band parents were the only non-work adults I would ever chat with. So sometimes the activity came to mean more to me than to my kids.

I think backing off on some activities and not becoming a hyper-parent can give your kid a chance to pick and choose what they really want to do.

The negative blow-back I would get for being a "drop-off" parent usually concerned my kids' behavior. It was like if you weren't there to "police" your kid you were a bad parent.

I certainly didn't want my kids to be troublemakers, but I came to think that sometimes receiving consequences from other kids or the coaching parent was a good thing. I had some activities that I lead, so it wasn't like I wasn't ever the coaching parent, but I came to feel that my always being there to smooth things over wasn't necessarily in my child's best interests.

So Maggie - I think your stance is OK. You need to do your "time" on kids activities but you aren't obligated to always be there.

Posted by: RedBird27 | January 8, 2008 7:53 AM

commentator3

"And I'm not so sure that you should care what anyone else thinks about your attendance at your child's games."

I AM sure. I don't give a rat's a$s what anyone else thinks.

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 8, 2008 8:29 AM


Here's the author's previous Guest Post:

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/onbalance/2007/10/draft_maggie_mcgary.html

It's as loopy, immature, and insecure as today's!

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 8, 2008 8:35 AM

commentator3 says "I do think it may be a function of all of us having our own careers and not being stay at home parents where we have time to navel gaze about this."

Give me a break. If you really think that stay at home parents have time to navel gaze, then you don't spend much time with your family. Show some respect.

Posted by: wtf | January 8, 2008 8:47 AM

I agree that out-of-control parents should not be tolerated, but how, exactly, can they be made to cease and desist? Is someone going to bodily throw them out of the game? Asking them nicely to shut up obviously isn't working.

Posted by: Retrovirus | January 8, 2008 8:52 AM

Maggie, I disagree with Chitty again. I think you're making some darn good points. Not all of society is kid-centric thank goodness. Just that part of society those with kids seem to inhabit...grin! Seriously, I understand the pressure to always be there and the pressure is misplaced, at least for our kids. Our kids play for themselves, not for us. My husband doesn't attend our kid's practices, swim meets or tennis matches. Other parents look at him as nuts, but actually, he doesn't confuse their playing with his own ego. He does interactive activities with them, like camping, playing games. He does attend a few but not many. I'm usually at their activities, but not always. Athletes do best when they perform for themselves, not for others. Actually, that is true for almost anything.

Hey Chitty - why the absolutism and negativism all the time? A blog is a type of conversation. If you don't care about another's opinion, then you aren't taking part in a conversation, but rather, conducting a monologue....and a virulent one at that.

Posted by: dotted_1 | January 8, 2008 8:55 AM

I disagree chitty. Neither post was loopy, immature or insecure. The first thing I take from it is the suprising power of the Internet! It remains a public forum and you can never be sure where your comments will end up so be careful.
Secondly, I think the extent we need to *support* our children by cheering them on in their activities and the extent we need to let them do things on their own is a good question. I want my kids to discover activities that give them pleasure whether anyone is cheering them on or not. But then again, I wouldn't dream of missing a school concert -- contradiction? I'm interested to hear others weigh in on it.

Posted by: anne.saunders | January 8, 2008 8:57 AM

Since my son is 2.5 I can answer this blithely and out of my rear end but...

I'd just ask your kids (non-coercively of course). If they think your & your husband's involvement level is fine, then you're fine. That's who it matters to.

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | January 8, 2008 9:03 AM

I can't speak about kids activities. My kid is too young to be in organized sports. But I do remember being a kid and my parents NEVER attended a sporting event. They did go to concerts, plays, and other events they were interested in. I always felt bad. I certainly don't think you need to be at every game or even the majority. But I do think it is nice to take a mild interest in the things that matter to your kids. Not because other parents are judging you, and I doubt they are, but because it means something to your kids. As far as the out of control sports parents, they should be ejected from the stands. That is ridiculous.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 8, 2008 9:07 AM

Retrovirus:
"I agree that out-of-control parents should not be tolerated, but how, exactly, can they be made to cease and desist? Is someone going to bodily throw them out of the game? Asking them nicely to shut up obviously isn't working."

Our program's rules are clear. When the official (umpire, referee, depending on the sport) believes that a parent is crossing the line of sportsmanship, the official stops the game and calls the coaches together. The coach of the team being supported by that adult is asked to request that the parent restrain himself/herself. (Yes, we expect the coaches to know which team that parent belongs to, although it's usually pretty obvious from the comments being made.)

If the parent will not stop, the parent is ejected from the game. By rule, when a parent is ejected the child is also ejected. We put that rule in because we want the parent to drive home with a kid, knowing that his/her behavior denied the kid the opportunity to play and publicly humiliated the kid.

The game is stopped until the parent and child leave the park. If they do not leave the park within a reasonable time, the game is over and that team forfeits.

After any ejection, there is a meeting among the parent, coach and league officials prior to the child being allowed to play again. If the behavior is egregious or this is not a first offense, the child may be removed from the program.

And yes, we have been threatened with lawsuits from aggrieved parents, and in at least one case I believe we were actually sued (the case was quickly dismissed, I'm told; I wasn't personally involved). Too bad.

Some problems arise because the officials have different tolerances for behavior. Profanity is a definite no-no, but other actions/words are subject to interpretation. Some umpires truly let things roll off their backs and tolerate a lot; others tolerate almost nothing. So we get the "it's not fair!" complaints - "at last week's game that parent did worse than me, and he didn't get in trouble."

Posted by: ArmyBrat | January 8, 2008 9:18 AM

Re: parents not showing up - as a league adminstrator, there are times when I'd REALLY like to make a rule that says "no parents allowed! Drop your kids off at the entrance to the park; come back a couple of hours later and pick them up." So I really don't mind if parents don't come to the game, as long as transportation arrangements are made.

WRT my own kids' games: I'll be honest, I just really like sports. I like watching my kids play sports. So I go whenever I can, be it a recreational league game, a travel game, a high school game, whatever. If I'm coaching I try to treat my child as just another player; if I'm not coaching I try to support the teams and not embarrass my child. I usually know most of the players; often I know a lot of players on both teams so I try to make sure that I'm staying within bounds.

By contrast, DW does NOT like sports; she will come watch her kids on occasion but she doesn't really root for anything except for them to do well. I haven't noticed anybody commenting on my presence/her absence, particularly given that we have four kids and two WOHP so it's hard for both of us to be in the same place at the same time.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | January 8, 2008 9:25 AM

I don't know how kids' sports got to be such a be-all and end-all. When I was a kid, by the time I was 8 or 9, if I wanted to do an extracurricular activity, I walked or biked there by myself (yes, this was back in the dark ages, after I walked to school uphill both ways through the snow). My parents almost never came -- as a matter of fact, most parents never came. It was rec league, just for the kids to play and have fun.

Then somehow, 10-15 years ago, it seems like going to your kids' sports events became almost a status thing, a way to show that you were an "involved" parent. I worked at a firm with a partner who bragged about never missing his son's baseball games. This was a guy who routinely worked nights and weekends, pretty much never saw his kids except for those baseball games -- and yet everyone saw him as the model of the "involved" dad.

Sports can be a great way to bond with your kids. But it is neither necessary nor sufficient. The important thing is whether you're putting in the time and effort to build that bond somehow -- not how many brownie points you get from your coworkers or neighbors for showing up for every game.

Posted by: laura33 | January 8, 2008 9:30 AM

Army Brat, I agree with all of your points and think Maggie is out to lunch again. Most folks with kids practice the divide-and-conquer strategy for activities such that it's extraordinarily unusual for both parents to be at any event and it's a toss-up whether dad or mom is at a particular game. Moreover, no other parent gives a rat's a$$ whether Susie's or Joe's mom (or dad) is at any particular game or practice. Live your life and get your head out of 7th grade.

In every league for whom our kids have played - whether soccer, basketball, gymnastics, or t-ball - behavior like that of the dad Maggie mentions would have resulted in either the coach or an official requiring that parent to leave. If you don't like what's going on on your kids team, consider switching leagues or teams, or asking why those running the league tolerate it. Just don't assume that it's typical of youth sports because it's not.

Posted by: mn.188 | January 8, 2008 9:33 AM

ArmyBrat: it's punishing the kid when you throw them out of a game cause of their parent's actions. Perhaps just throwing out the parent is the answer. Many times, I suppose, the kid has to leave with the parents, but an important lesson for a kid to learn is that their parents don't reflect on them - that their parents are who they are and the way they act doesn't reflect who the kid is.

Laura: totally agree with you. When I was on kickline, my parents never came to any games (football/basketball). They would drop me off and pick me up, if needed, but mainly, it was up to me to get wherever. Wasn't involved in sports, but I suppose it would've been the same. When I was in plays, they'd typically come see one of the performances, though.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 8, 2008 9:38 AM

"Please, some of us have our own lives too. I do think it may be a function of all of us having our own careers and not being stay at home parents where we have time to navel gaze about this."

This is pretty insulting to sah parents. And considering that, as a kid, most of the bad behavior I saw at sporting events eminated from the fathers, it also makes no sense. The dads seem to be much more obessed with their childrens' sports involvement (and since this was during the 80s and 90s, I doubt most of them were at-home parents).

My husband coached summer-league swim team in high school and college, and there were always a few dads who treated it like it was the Olympic trials, even when many of the younger kids couldn't even swim the length of the pool. The looked like a bunch of idiots, and the coaches were all embarrased for them. Of course it made the kids completely miserable.

Posted by: floof | January 8, 2008 9:39 AM

I don't usually post on this blog, but the "Soccer Mom" headline drew me in. When I was in highschool I ran track and cross country. Our meets were on Wednesdays and Saturdays. My parents couldn't make it to every single one (obviously), but they made it to quite a few. Which did mean a lot and when they did cheer for me (which was always I am sure) it was never negative, but positive cheering. I think that's the key, as long as you're supporing your kid in whatever sport they chose to take on and just encourage them to do their best you'll be fine. I definatly don't think it's ok to put your child down or scream at them from the sidelines because that just makes them feel bad and not want to play. Which is unfair to the child. My sister played soccer when she was younger (maybe 6-8) and was on the worst team in the league. They never won a game and only scored one goal in their entire season. But those parents came out and cheered on their children and were proud of them. Which taught them all a lesson that even though they were losing every single game they could still go out there and have fun.

Posted by: melissamac1 | January 8, 2008 9:58 AM

atlmom, it's always a tough issue when a well-behaved child has to leave because her parent is being a jerk. And yes, it's unfair to the kid. But we've put this rule into place because it seemed to work in two other organizations that we talked to; for whatever reason the parents seem to be a little bit better behaved if they know they're directly costing their children a chance to play. I can understand the argument both ways, but we go with the "child kicked out with the parent" rule for now.

floof, my program's experience has been somewhat different. I suspect that fathers are responsible for more low-level issues than mothers (e.g., hollering "that's a bad call, ump"), but in 12 years of involvement with youth sports we've had six "major" issues (where "major" means we've seriously considered kicking the family out of the program forever) and four of the six were caused by mothers.

I've said repeatedly that probably 99% of the parents involved with our program are wonderful and supportive, but doing the math, if we have 500 girls playing softball that means that at any given time there are roughly five parents running around making complete fools of themselves. I spend way too much of my time playing "whack-a-mole" with those five. (Figuratively, of course; there are times I'd love to do that literally, but, you know, lawyers and all. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | January 8, 2008 10:02 AM

This is yet another example of a blog supposedly about seeking balance but is really a "duh!!" situation.

"How can you find the so-called happy medium that's best for you and your kid?"

The happy medium is that you attend games when you can (which means that you truly make an effort to arrange your schedule to be there, not that you say "I work, I can't do that." Or "I don't like soccer, I'm not going." Or "That's his gig, not mine."), and that you cheer for your child and talk to them about the game afterwards and are just generally supportive; that you're a decent human being while you're there and don't verbally abuse anyone; that you let the coach do his job.

Duh.

But then, someone who never goes to soccer games because it's "not her bag" maybe WOULD have a problem seeing how simple this really is. While what you witnessed the other dad doing was extrordinarily wrong, I'm not sure why anyone cares about the opinion of someone who admittedly says that she lets the other parent handle this activity. I'm not sure you get to vote.

Posted by: fake99 | January 8, 2008 10:30 AM

"If the parent will not stop, the parent is ejected from the game."

If you have not already been sued by one of these parents, then you soon will be. The suit might be frivilous, it might not. But either way, it will bankrupt you. This is America. If I don't like you, I will sue you into submission. Don't mess with me unless you want precious little Johnny's education fund spent on a lawyer defending you from my baseless allegations. GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!

Posted by: antipATRICK | January 8, 2008 10:51 AM

I don't enjoy every activity that my child engages in but I do enjoy watching them learn and succeed. I coach my children's soccer teams because I enjoy soccer. I can understand not making practices but missing the games if you can reasonably make it, I don't understand. I can remember in sports how groovy it felt to look up in the stands, after I scored a goal or made a play, to see my parents cheering for me. Would I be a different person if they didn't come, probably not, but they are special memories that I cherish. It is nice to know that my parents chose to take an interest in things that were important to me.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | January 8, 2008 10:58 AM

The fact that the blog poster felt compelled to tell us in her first sentence that her child played CHAMPIONSHIP soccer (rather than merely noting that she played "soccer") suggests that she's already deeply invested in both her child's athletic career and what other people think about it.

Go through the previous posts and notice how many people feel compelled to pay some homage to their child's athletic prowess in replying to this blog. Apparently everyone's child plays SELECT soccer and TRAVEL soccer and CHAMPIONSHIP soccer. No one simply notes that their child plays sports.

If people really just thought it was about fresh air and exercise, they wouldn't all have to tell you how good their child was at it.

Posted by: justlurking | January 8, 2008 11:03 AM

My child played on a league because it played on Sundays (after the Jewish Comm. Ctr not being helpful, the YM*C*A set up a league for me - i..e, I found the participants, they did the rest).

Just a small soccer league, 5 or 6 teams we played against another YMCA - there were six on a team, and it was fun. They had practice for about 20 minutes, then a game. No travel, no championship, no select. Whoever signed up, that's who played.

I only went to a few games (DH was coach - he never coached soccer before but figured he could do it) - cause it was during the younger one's nap time - I went when DH wasn't able, i.e., had to take the dog for his pet assisted therapy at the old age home.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 8, 2008 11:08 AM

I've found there are no hard-and-fast guidelines. Depends on the kid. I thought I was being a wonderful laidback parent until my son asked me why I never, ever cheered for him. So I started cheering more. He also asked me to come to both performances of his school play so I did. Our daughter on the other hand wants less parental involvement since she thinks we are total goofballs in public. Our third kid is lucky she has any afterschool activities of her own and I don't think she cares whether we are there or not.

Bottom line is: listen to your kid. Unfortunately the nutty parents, who most need to respect their kids, are the most tone-deaf and I'm not sure what to do about that.

Posted by: leslie4 | January 8, 2008 11:23 AM

ArmyBrat, I like that rule - especially if it works!

Posted by: mucus99 | January 8, 2008 11:33 AM

Go through the previous posts and notice how many people feel compelled to pay some homage to their child's athletic prowess in replying to this blog. Apparently everyone's child plays SELECT soccer and TRAVEL soccer and CHAMPIONSHIP soccer. No one simply notes that their child plays sports.

Posted by: justlurking | January 8, 2008 11:03 AM

justlurking, you are misunderstanding the information that's been communicated to you. Do you have kids? No one is saying how good their kid is at sports. They are telling you how competitive the program is so that you have a sense of context for both the time demand on the parents and kids (travel teams often practice 3 times a week and have one or two games, and participate in more weekend tournaments than non-travel teams) and the importance to the kid of success and winning. If a kid is playing recreational basketball, she probably doesn't give two hoots about anything other than raising her heart rate. If she is playing for a travel team of any sport, she probably is significantly more invested in the success of her team. It requires a lot of family support for a kid to play on a travel team. It does NOT mean someone is bragging that his daughter has the skills of Mia Hamm if he says, she plays Classic Soccer.

You can't have a conversation about nuance unless you share the details. Unless of course, all you want to do is criticize other parents and not shed light on the underlying topic.

Posted by: mn.188 | January 8, 2008 11:38 AM

See, Leslie, sometimes as the parent you need to make rules, though. For the kid that wants you there all the time (or does he? Maybe I'm projecting) - maybe you indicate to him (not necessarily saying this, but) - hey, I love you and love that you participate, but I can't always be there, can't be at every game/practice/performance. That's okay - ya know? Then maybe they are more into finding what works for them instead of just doing it cause they think mom/dad wants them to - or they get more time to think about what they want, etc.

And for the kids that don't want you there, it's okay also to tell them that since they are your child, and you enjoy watching him/her, that you want to be there. Maybe not as often as you might for the other kid, but to instill in the kid that it's not always about THEM (as the same way you would up above).

I hope that all makes sense in the right context...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 8, 2008 11:44 AM

You may be right, mn. But I think justlurking has a point as well.

It's worth noting that Maggie is making a point of going to her daughter's CHAMPIONSHIP game, but that she doesn't attend other games regularly. If the point is to be supportive of your child and for them to be fit and get exercise and be on a team, what does it say if we only attend the BIG games or only attend if our kids are successful?

However, also worth noting is that Maggie's kids play Boys & Girls Club soccer - they're not training for the Olympic Team. B&GC hardly requires a big commitment on the parent's behalf, which brings me back to the question of why Maggie is finding it so difficult to support her kids by attending their games.

Posted by: fake99 | January 8, 2008 11:46 AM

My child doesn't play any sports, but he routinely puts a blanket over his head and runs around until he crashes into something, and I watch and laugh every time. I'm sure he's gifted. When he's old enough to play sports hopefully I'll still get to watch and laugh.

Posted by: LizaBean | January 8, 2008 11:58 AM

B&GC hardly requires a big commitment on the parent's behalf, which brings me back to the question of why Maggie is finding it so difficult to support her kids by attending their games.


Posted by: fake99 | January 8, 2008 11:46 AM


I'm with you there, fake. If you only show up when your son has the lead on Broadway, and not ever when he's performing in a dinner theater in Hoboken, you aren't supporting work ethic and commitment. You're suggesting that until he does something impressive to the neighbors, thanks, you'll pass. You don't have to be at every game and practice to send the message that you support your child's efforts and commitments.

Posted by: mn.188 | January 8, 2008 12:03 PM

I think some people put too much emphasis on attending kids games and people feel way too much guilt when they don't attend. You should have a handle on whether it is important to your child for you to attend the games. Some kids want their parents their, but I think most really don't care and just want to go out and have fun. Even if they do care, I don't think they expect attendance of both parents at every game. When I was a kid, I really didn't care whether my parents attended games. I was playing for my own enjoyment, not to make my parents proud. I think my Mom attended all the games, but frankly I didn't notice her because I was playing and having fun (sorry Mom). My Dad generally did not attend, because he came home too late during the week, and I was fine with that. He was never into sports, that just wasn't part of our relationship, and still isn't today. He'd always make a few games, I think feeling like he was supposed to, and I appreciated the effort, but I was not disappointed the games he did not attend. Furthermore, as I got older, I didn't exactly enjoy having my parents at the game when I was chewed out by our our coaches for missing a tackle. The important thing is to spend time with your children in whatever way, shape or form that you and your child enjoy. It doesn't have to include youth sports. It can be playing games, reading, going to the library, a museum, listening to music, or whatever.

Posted by: cliffmerrell | January 8, 2008 12:11 PM

"B&GC hardly requires a big commitment on the parent's behalf, which brings me back to the question of why Maggie is finding it so difficult to support her kids by attending their games."

So, wait, now, kids have to have both parents at all games, or mom and dad are not "supporting their kids"? Think you've just pretty much proved Maggie's point about the judgmentalism out there.

For the record, I don't do a lot of the sports stuff with my kids, either. I may when they are old enough to have leagues and games -- but then again, I may not. But I don't particularly care about what the other parents think when they see my husband every weekend instead of me. Because I know I do other special things with my kids that we both enjoy (ok, mine mostly involve food). And I know that my daughter enjoys learning how to make homemade pasta with me as much as, or more than, she cares who is sitting in the bleachers while she takes her swim lesson.

I also don't see how Maggie is garnering criticism for going to the "big game." I know from my own experience that the most important thing to me was to have my parents there for the playoff game, opening night, whatever it was -- even if they weren't room mothers or assistant coaches or in the stands/audience watching the rest of the year, I wanted them there for the big event that I worked so hard for. And they always came. Not because they were just dying for an excuse to go to an 8th grade orchestra concert, but because it mattered to me. And I never sat around thinking, "gee, they only love me when I win" -- I was too busy being over the moon that my dad drove down from Delaware to watch my high school volleyball championship game, even though I just rode the bench all season. To me, when a parent makes a special effort to be there for a special event just because it matters to the child, that merits respect and praise, not "gee, why weren't you here the REST of the year?"

Posted by: laura33 | January 8, 2008 12:36 PM

antiPATRICK: that's why we have lawyers on retainer, and carry a big insurance policy. Yep, it drives the league fees up but it's a necessary part of operating today, even for our little 501(c)(3).

It doesn't bother me that Maggie went to the championship game and not the others. In our program, once you're past 8 years old we have standings and championships. No, winning is not the most important thing; teamwork, sportsmanship, and learning and enjoying the game all come before it. But there are winners and losers in every game and in every season, and it's important to recognize results. We do make kind of a big deal out of our championship game, and the trophies are handed out after that. So, we tend to get a lot more people for the championship than for the regular season games.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | January 8, 2008 1:02 PM

We do make kind of a big deal out of our championship game, and the trophies are handed out after that. So, we tend to get a lot more people for the championship than for the regular season games.

Posted by: ArmyBrat |

I bet they're also coming for the post-game end-of-season pizza party too, right?

I'm surprised that the parents didn't have to sign some sort of code of conduct form at the beginning of the season. Even my kids podunk rec league has that. I don't think any parent has been tossed out for soccer...there were one or two coaches who got wrist slaps during softball though.

Anyway, it's a shame that some parents get carried away in a nasty fashion. Hopefully they'll eventually learn to cool it and their kids don't take it to heart.

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 8, 2008 1:22 PM

Common poor sportsmanship phrases yelled by parents and coaches at children's sporting events:

1. The ref needs glasses!
2. Get the lead out!
3. Do you want to play, or do you want to go home and watch Mickey Mouse
4. Did you forget to eat your Wheaties this morning?
5. You hit like a girl!
6. Quit standing around with:
a) hair on your head
B) teeth in your mouth
C finger up your nose
D) thumb up your butt
7) Deck his ass! (football only)
8) That really stunk!
9) I've never seen a bigger bunch of pansies!
10) Nobody likes a loser!

All these insults were around 35 years ago when I played sports. Has anybody come up with something new since then?

Posted by: DandyLion | January 8, 2008 1:34 PM

You throw like a girl!

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | January 8, 2008 1:40 PM

Hey ref, you're missing a great game!

Posted by: sunnyroad | January 8, 2008 1:44 PM

KLB -- you just reminded me of my all-time favorite Sally Forth, from like 20 years ago: Ted is standing there with a snowball plastered to his forehead, while Sally says "Tell me again how I throw like a girl." :-)

Posted by: laura33 | January 8, 2008 1:44 PM

KLB: a few years ago I gave my players T-shirts that said "Throw like a girl - IF you're good enough."

(They were more popular with the parents than the ones that said "I bust mine so that I can kick yours.")

Posted by: ArmyBrat | January 8, 2008 1:54 PM

ArmyBrat,
That sure beats "there's no crying in baseball" I've always hated that.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | January 8, 2008 1:55 PM

"Hey Ref, bend over and use your good eye!"

Posted by: wgm | January 8, 2008 2:08 PM

"I can understand not making practices but missing the games if you can reasonably make it, I don't understand."

My mom was a SAHM who grew up in the South in the 50s, when "ladies" did not play sports. She had plenty of time to attend my games, she just didn't do it very often. I didn't really care - I knew she had never played any of these sports herself, so she didn't really understand what was going on. Besides, my brother and I were terribly accident-prone and she couldn't stand to watch us get hurt - we joked that it was just easier to have her meet us at the ER for the ride home.

Posted by: dcgirl1899 | January 8, 2008 2:44 PM

Part of being a little kid is the "watch me, mom!" syndrome. You don't think you've actually done something unless your mom or dad sees it.

Don't you think part of growing up is to know that your parents do not need to witness every little accomplishment to make them real, for them to be worthwhile? You learn to enjoy each game, whether you win or lose, score a goal or flub it, for yourself, not for your parents.

Thus it is actually good parenting to miss some games, whether they are championship or regular ones. To attend everything your kid does becomes obsessional -- not good for kids. And definitely not good for parents.

Posted by: leslie4 | January 8, 2008 3:09 PM

well said Leslie...well said...

Posted by: dotted_1 | January 8, 2008 3:13 PM

I agree with Laura and others about the tendency to make sports participation a litmus test for involved parenting. There a lot of ways to bond with and support your kids, and I don't see the big deal if a parent does other things with their kids that they both enjoy and care about, and only makes a few games that are most important to the kid. It seems like it's got to be a balance of what's important to the kid and the parent and what they both enjoy doing together.

Posted by: LizaBean | January 8, 2008 3:19 PM

DD played 8 seasons of soccer between K and 3rd grade. One of her parents was at every game to cheer her on. She always understood when one of us had to be absent and it wasn't a big deal. DH or I missed games due to work commitments, illness, and once due to a funeral of a friend. But I would have had a problem dropping her off at a soccer game and using that time to shop or catch up on my reading.

Maybe I'm projecting, but I grew up in a team sports obsessed house and with a sister who was a gifted athlete. My mom attended every game, from rec to travel to state and regional championships to NCAA games in college.

I played tennis one year and my parents dropped me off at my matches without staying. They were busy with my sis, and besides, "tennis is boring." I heard the same comment when I became active in regional theatre -- "Shakespeare is boring."

I don't know if Maggie meant to convey the same sentiment when she says that "soccer is not my bag." But I can say that it hurt me deeply when my mother couldn't be bothered to try something new that she knew was important to me.

So, no, you don't have to show up at every game. But if your child's interests differ from yours, do take some time to learn about them. Let your child teach you! S/he will get a kick out of it and you may discover a new interest along the way.

Posted by: vegasmom89109 | January 8, 2008 3:53 PM

VegasMom, that sounds very hurtful, especially given their intense involvement with your sister's sports activities.

Posted by: LizaBean | January 8, 2008 4:44 PM

"I agree with Laura and others about the tendency to make sports participation a litmus test for involved parenting."

I've seen parents make a variety of activities litmus tests for parenting, from church youth group involvement, chess team, science team and drama team participation, to running in support of ALS, Muscular Dystrophy or The Cure. If these activities reflect their kids' interests? Great! If the parents are checking all the activity boxes on the college application form? Blechh.

vegasmom - you make a great point about the importance of opening yourself up to new hobbies and interests of your kids. If you love someone, you're interested in sharing and learning about that other person's interests, whether that person is young or old, boyfriend, girlfriend, grandma or progeny.

Posted by: mn.188 | January 8, 2008 5:06 PM

MN, that's interesting, I've never seen other activities used as a stick by which to judge other parents the way sports are, but that's probably due only to my child's young age, LOL. I suppose that sports participation is also lot more prevalent and has a more consistent calendar than a lot of other activities.

Posted by: LizaBean | January 8, 2008 6:08 PM

Ah, LizaBean, your child must not be old enough yet to compete in the my-child-is-smarter-than-your-child olympics. I think the degree of a parent's involvement in their children's education surpasses the degree of involvement in sports as a yardstick. Most parents I know are too embarrassed to gossip about a parent who hasn't shown up at a game. But few pass up the opportunity to judge a parent whose child is found lacking in academic cred. "If they'd just signed little Madison up for Kumon, she'd be reading Shakespeare by now instead of that dull Dr. Seuss . . . ." or "Can you believe they let Jacob play outside instead of drilling him on his multiplication flashcards?"

Posted by: vegasmom89109 | January 8, 2008 7:03 PM

LOL, VegasMom! Oh, I dread the days...

Posted by: LizaBean | January 8, 2008 8:32 PM

vegas mom: yeah, wouldn't it be *horrible* if you're kids were (oh!) average???

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 8, 2008 8:39 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2007 The Washington Post Company