Sunday, February 3, 2019

leave those kids alone

My ten-year old nephew loves, lives and breathes basketball. He talks about when he goes pro, not if, as though it is already decided. He plays on a traveling basketball team with other ten-year olds, some of whom exhibit moves on the court that belie their years.

A few weeks ago, I got to see my nephew's team play against another team of ten-year olds. The kids took to the court and each one played their little hearts out. They looked to be having a great time passing and dribbling and shooting and blocking and scoring. The excitement was infectious and the fun was palpable. As the youngsters ran up and down the court, their teammates on the bench cheered them on and their coaches sporadically shouted out direction and words of encouragement.

But, from the bleachers side of the game, it was a different story.

I sat with my wife and my nephew's parents. Nearby were a few gentlemen that behaved as though this was the crucial series-deciding game of the NBA finals. Their entire existence hinged on this game. I don't know who's parents they were, because these few fathers were calling out strategy to everyone on the team, not necessarily just their kid. There were determined yells of "Block that!" and "On your left!" and "Behind you!" Some of the call-outs were louder than the coach's instructions, distracting the young players' focus from the game. These same fathers grumbled and stamped their feet against the wooden slat seats when a referee blew his whistle against the home team. Some even vocalized their displeasure with the rulings. At the end of the game, with a lopsided score, one second left to play and no chance of a comeback, I heard a few of the parents giving audible snickers.

It was embarrassing. I never played sports as a child, (Who am I kidding? I never played sports as an adult, either!) but, I always heard stories of frustrated "stage parents" living their failed sports dreams vicariously through their children, however witnessing it made my blood run cold. Their self-serving actions undermined the fun and sportsmanship that these games are supposed to nurture. After the game, some fathers didn't even congratulate their budding athlete. 

Can't these kids just have a little fun without your shortcomings entering into it?  Come on... they're only kids once. You had your chance.

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