Last weekend, I attended a friend’s son’s travel team baseball game of which parents are highly involved based on the investment they make to join such leagues — it’s not cheap being a part of a travel team. I’ve heard that some parents make it work by taking on second jobs in order for their children to participate. Hopefully most of them do this based on their children’s interests, but unfortunately, some do it based on their own desires. I have personally witnessed fathers who wish to live vicariously through their sons (or daughters) and have a second chance at winning a title they were never given. I have also witnessed parents thrown out of games because they mouthed off to the referees and even worse, got into fights with the opposing team’s parents.
The most heartbreaking example of Sports Dad-itis happened at this game. It was tense, the teams were within a run of each other but at the end of the day, someone had to lose. For one particular father, the loss symbolized failure and he let his son know it.
On the way out to our car, kids in tow, I heard one father berating his son while they sat inside their car. The boy’s head was in down and in his hands. The father’s words were not entirely clear, but the yelling was at a decibel loud enough to make out intermittent words, even outside their car. He was telling his son he had to work harder, take the game more seriously, practice harder and that nobody liked losers. He asked him if he was going to settle for being a loser in life and told him that if he continued to lose, there would be consequences. He started listing his punishments which included him being unable to see his friends for a week. He was angry. Shockingly angry at his son who could not have been older than 12 or 13.
All I wanted to do at the time was rescue the poor child. What is up with these sports parents, anyway? Sports ability is a natural talent and if that talent is average then the takeaways are good sportsmanship, team building and above all else — fun. I get the feeling that many of these parents think their kid is going to be the next MLB superstar or they’re relying on sports scholarships. How are kids to cope with this kind of pressure?
And the worse part of it is, this guy is doing nothing illegal by berating his son and telling him how worthless he is because he lost a stupid baseball game. Shitty parents exist and while they may make the argument that they were trying to better their sports kids and help them live up to their potential or give them an opportunity that they, themselves, have never had, it doesn’t excuse their behavior nor does it take away the psychological repercussions and loss to a child’s self esteem. Those poor kids.