Monday, June 17, 2013

Look At Me Ma!

Throughout grammar school and high school I played on various organized teams including baseball, basketball, swimming, bowling and track. I was in the church choir and I played trumpet in a drum and bugle corps. Except for an occasional midnight mass around Christmas at which the choir was featured, my parents never witnessed me in action in any of these activities. They never even transported me there, mainly because they didn't have a car. We traveled with our coach on public buses or subways, and almost nobody's parents came to the games unless they were coach's assistants. In fact, we might have even been embarrassed to see our parents in the stands; it just wasn't done.

It's not that my parents weren't interested. They encouraged me to participate in any activity I wanted, and not just to get me out of their hair for a few hours. They knew I enjoyed them, that they helped build me up physically, and that I would learn first hand about sportsmanship and to be part of a team. They were proud of my medals and trophies and displayed them around the house for our relatives and friends to see. They paid for my uniforms and equipment, even though money was always tight. The fact that they never attended my sporting events never really bothered me; I took part for my own satisfaction and to help my teams win. By the time I became a parent, all this changed.

My daughter and sons were involved in many activities. They played on sports teams, took part in Scouting, and joined social and academic clubs in school. For most of the 1970s and 1980s my wife and I lived in the car, driving the kids to wherever they had an activity scheduled. Often one or both of us would stay for the event to cheer our kids on. We sat in the gym, in the bleachers, and in wind-whipped outdoor soccer fields supporting our kids. My wife was severely traumatized on opening day of Little League when she was working the snack bar and was nearly stampeded when they opened the gates to let in the crazed parents and kids. The parents were actually worse than the kids.

Their behavior at baseball and soccer games was shameful. My old coaches would never have tolerated any parents who conducted themselves the way these maniacs did. We were taught to be gracious losers, to always shake hands with the other team after the game, and to not hassle the referees who back then were mostly unpaid volunteers. The parents on my kids' teams were just the opposite. They screamed at the coach if he or she didn't play their child. They berated the poor referees, the other team, sometimes even their own kids if they played badly. One year in the Little League playoffs, there was nearly a bench and bleachers clearing brawl! My wife and I attended as many games as we could, but were mortified at the way these adults set such a horrible example for their kids. 

It's nice that parents want to see their kids at play and show up for the games, but after seeing the way they behaved, we were actually happy when my sons decided not to move up to the next level in Little League. Maybe Mom and Dad had the right idea.

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2 comments:

The Whiner said...

You should see them now. I'm so glad Ava does a sport where she works as a team but achievements are her own. I can't take parents screaming at their kids.

Jim Pantaleno said...

Kind of defeats the whole idea of sportsmanship. Yuch.