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The Intolerable Sports Parent


Today, like many Saturdays, was consumed by my kids and their sports.

I am among the millions of American parents whose children chose sports activity over something far cooler. Like a Saturday book club or a weekend Thespian Society. My kids are not in band. They are similarly not into something like D&D or other gaming types of clubs.

They are into fitness.

When I was their age, I spent my weekends reading Teen magazine, organizing my Caboodle, trying to tape my favorite songs off the radio without getting all the commercials, and crying into my pillow because my dad wouldn’t buy me a new pair of Rollerblades.

Not my kids, though. They can’t do cool stuff like lounge around all weekend eating Cheetos and watching reruns of Saved By the Bell.

Nope.

It’s only after you are knee deep in strings, racquets, and the mounting costs that come with it all, that you realize just how much single sports specialization becomes a way of life. The question every morning when we are getting ready for the day is: are we playing tennis today? Today, in 2019, the kids that pick one sport essentially devote all their free time to doing that sport. And if your kids get really into it, entire weekends, holidays, and vacations are reserved for – you guessed it – tournaments.

All complaining aside: I do love that my kids have found something that they have a passion for. There are a lot of kids (and I mean a lot) that sort of flounder around from thing to thing, until they eventually succumb to complacent boredom. Nothing good can come of a kid (especially an older one) that is bored. Tennis, for my kids, has not only curbed boredom; it’s kept them healthy, taught them about caring for their bodies, helped reduced school-related stress, and brought them into a social setting with other kids that have similar interests.

But by God if the parents don’t suck the fucking life out of it sometimes.

Honestly. These parents that put their kids in sports are the most intolerable of the bunch. And I recognize the irony in the sense that I – too – am a parent that has put my kids into sports.

But I definitely see myself apart from the pack.

1. I don’t coach my kid.

You can always tell you are dealing with the intolerable sports parent when you roll up to the tennis court and see that they are coaching their own kid. Even parents that played in college probably shouldn’t be coaching their kid (unless, of course, we are talking about a sport like baseball where the dad volunteers to be the coach for the team – an entirely different circumstance altogether).

I know parents that know absolutely nothing about tennis whatsoever and insist that they are their kid’s coach.

I know parents that bust out Youtube videos to show their kids a new stance for serving or hitting a backhand.

I know parents that will stand there and argue with their kid about what is right and wrong in the game. That will do this not only on the public court on a Saturday afternoon, but in front of a large group of other people at a tournament. The kid just lost, usually badly, and the dad is standing there lecturing about the racket head being closed instead of open.

We get it: a lot of professional tennis players have parents for coaches. But your kid isn’t Serena Williams, nor are you Serena and Venus’s dad.

2. I also don’t push my kid into positions they are ill-prepared ready for.

My kids play team tennis. Team tennis parents are the worst.

Granted, we have made friends with a lot of team tennis families over the years; but there are always those few that seem to have made it their mission in life to ruin the team experience for everyone.

Usually they are mothers, and typically they think they are auditioning for Dance Moms, at least when it comes to the high key drama and the nonstop shit talking.

Typically their names are something like Tammy, Tiffany, Brenda, Debra, Linda, Tobi, or Jenipher – spelled, emphatically, with a “ph.”

Speak to the manager haircuts are not required, but almost always a part of the get up.

This intolerable sports parent makes the situation unbearable for everyone else by trying to push her kid into a place the kid isn’t really ready for.

Why isn’t my kid playing #1 singles?

Why isn’t my kid playing singles AND doubles?

Why did we even come if my kid isn’t going to play the top position?

I’ll admit, there have been times that I have gotten annoyed when my kids are put at the bottom place week after week after week after week. But my annoyance usually isn’t because I expect them to play at the top, rather I am just tired that they are shit on by way of these overbearing, intolerable sports parents stepping on them to make their under qualified kid the star.

3. I don’t act crazy or loud at the matches.

It really doesn’t matter what sport your kid plays: there is no reason in the fucking universe why you should be acting crazy or loud in the stands.

One time, my oldest daughter was on a tennis team and there was a mother that would bang her fist on the table and scream at plays she didn’t like (either from her daughter or her daughter’s opponent – she was not discretionary at whom she screamed).

That same lady, one time, went totally ballistic because her kid was placed in doubles, and literally fell on the floor crying. Fell. On. The. Floor.

It was fodder for a bad reality TV show, at best; and to this day, I have not since seen anything so extreme.

We used to live in a townhome complex across from a soccer field, and every Saturday would wake up to the sounds of parents getting into outright brawls over something that had happened during the game. A yellow card or red card was pulled and parents would start screaming at each other, then two mildly obese men in Raiders t-shirts and Levi jeans would be rolling around, fists flying.

Once, at a tennis match, my younger daughter’s coach walked in late (having come from another match) and stepped right into a huge circle of parents and coaches that were screaming at each other about who was actually allowed to call balls out. At one point I heard someone yell “is this a racial thing,” to which another person said “no I’m Mexican but apparently my skin isn’t brown enough” and several people walked (no, ran) away.

Even the parents that cheer too loudly seem to be intolerable at a point. It’s one thing to clap or be happy for your kid; it’s another to stand up and scream like it’s the Super Bowl.

On one hand, I get it: sports, like everything else, costs a lot of money. Like more than a lot. For my two, oldest kids, our cost runs about $280 a week, and that does not include the strings, rackets, clothing, bags, grips, shoes, etc. that are replaced at least every other month, some every week.

So when you are putting out this fuckton of money, I can see how some parents could want some sort of a return for the money.

In truth, I think it’s really about the fact that some parents are living out their wildest fantasies through their children.

Because let’s face it: a lot of us didn’t grow up in a time where kids and their activities are so at the center of a parent’s universe. We were sent outside with our bikes and a stick; and, sure, some of us played a sport, but it wasn’t a daily thing like it is now. What we did daily was homework and Nintendo and hanging out with our friends.

And, if I’m being honest, our parents didn’t expect so much from us.

Or maybe I have a skewed memory of it all and my parents were intolerable sports parents when I was in t-ball or, later, tennis as well. I’m sure they existed in some way or another. Maybe there was a fight or two in the stands I was just completely oblivious to.

Or maybe me being so against living through my children and berating them after a bad match; or choosing to give my kid some space while they play, and keep quiet when I do watch, is the actual enemy. My lax approach to this whole thing really unsupportive; my insistence that my kids just enjoy themselves and have fun being just another example in a series of times I’ve missed the point. Maybe I’ve misunderstood the right and the wrong of this whole thing, and the only intolerable sports parent is me.


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