Sunday, April 19, 2009

Open Letter To Parents of Athletes

Dear Parents of the kids on the team:

Hi. I'm pretty sure you all know me. I'm the coach's wife. But please, give me minute to reintroduce myself to you, ok?

I'm the woman who is married to the man who spends no less than 20 hours a week volunteering his time so that your child can experience something more of the sport than simply playing catch with you in the back yard when you have a few free minutes. I'm the woman who is married to the man who sometimes has to be reminded that he has his OWN children that he needs to spend some attention on, because he has a tendency to become wrapped up in creating as wonderful an experience as he can make this sport for YOUR child. I'm the woman who willingly gives her husband to your child, and the sport, for all those many hours each week.

I'm the woman who is the mother to one of those kids on that field. One of those kids who might possibly be more talented than your child; or he might be struggling. One of those kids who has other issues behind the scenes; issues that might possibly dictate occasional behaviors that you may witness. I'm the mother to one of those kids who rely on positive feedback and reinforcement, to encourage him to continue to make efforts to improve himself, his behaviors and his athletic abilities. I'm the mother who constantly tries to teach her child good sportsmanship above all else, and that winning -- while it is certainly a worthy goal -- is not the ONLY goal.

I'm the woman who not only willingly gives her husband to your child for several hours each week, but gives of her own time for at least 20 hours each week. I'm the woman who represents you on the Board of Directors. I'm the woman who works to ensure that we continue to have a good relationship with the town we play this sport in. I'm the woman who works to ensure that you don't have to pay increasingly exorbitant fees for your child to participate in this sport he loves. I'm the woman who occasionally has to miss watching her own children play, so that she can ensure you get to watch yours play.

All of that, and yet.....

I'm also the woman who is hurt, angry and disappointed. The woman who stands behind the stands at each game, listening to you. The woman who hears you belittle the kids on the field, constantly criticize each and every decision the coach makes, and make negative personal comments about certain individuals. The woman who reads the emails you send, attacking my child without knowing a single thing about him. The woman who wonders how you can feel qualified or justified in ANYTHING you are saying about the coach, any of the kids on the field, or any situation at all when you are never at a practice and only at games; never taking the opportunity to simply ASK the coach about something you may disagree with or wonder about.

Parents, this is just a game. Your child is not even in middle school yet, so to them it is still JUST A GAME that they play because they enjoy it. There is no way of knowing, at 10 and 11 years old, if your child is going to be the next big thing to hit the pros. Realistically, at least half of these kids won't even still be playing by the time they make it to the high school level, let alone anything beyond that. So why are you not taking the time now, when it counts and will stay with them, to teach them the value of good sportsmanship? The value of teamwork? The value of not believing that they are the superstar and everything revolves around them? Parents, you might not believe me when I say this, but your children emulate you. How you behave towards the game, the players, the coaches and the officials is exactly how they will behave as well.

Teach your children that the coaches are volunteering their time, and should be respected for that. Teach your children that building up your teammates is the key to a good season. Teach your children that the official is human, too, and makes mistakes. Teach your children that they can always improve, and to always be looking for ways to do that. Teach your children to recognize that the ultimate goal of the game is not to win, but to be able to walk off the field knowing that you have given your absolute best and can be proud of that fact.

Athletic talent in each child is either there, or it isn't. You can't force a child to be something he isn't. So parents, teach your children to be good sports, and good people. For only then will they be a person you have created and shaped, and you will be able to be truly proud of them.

And then maybe everyone will be able to enjoy the games again.

Thank you,



T said...

I went into this season with a renewed determination to be more supportive... even if the 15 year old Refs make bad calls... because THAT's what the kids will remember.

And, even if we're not in the same town, I appreciate the board of directors - you rock :)

Karen said...

I take my hat off to both of you. I cannot imagine dealing with the parents season in and season out. At some point I'd be sure to tell them that it's a volunteer position and they're more than welcome to take over.

raino said...

thank you for posting this open letter. all of this is so true! your average parent of an athlete really hasn't a clue what goes into coaching or volunteering to have anything to do with a team. they are clueless and it's as a result of people like your husband that their children are even able to practice what they love. thanks again.

Flea said...

What a great letter! Now - are you sending it out to the email list? Because you totally should.

Burgh Baby said...


Anonymous said...

Well said...Send it on, lady...Send it on. A letter to your local editor; the local High School News Paper; get this message out there for the sake of the kids, the coaches, and the teams.
- Connie
Silverton, OR

prozac said...

Hear, hear! Some parents take their kids' games seriously, and try to help out in whatever way they can. But for the most part, they act like they're trying to re-live their past through their kids and act, ironically, like kids when things don't always go their way. They need to learn that these are their kids' lives and their kids' games, and that the time of the parent to shine in that sort of thing is past.

Shellie said...

Yep, grownups need to chill out. Good letter!

Anonymous said...

I hope someone has told you that your 4/19/09 blog entry made the 5/1/09 issue of the Sportsmanship email newsletter. Keep up the good work.