Every year around this time, I become very excited as a new season of football is about to get underway! I love it all: from pee-wee football to the NFL! Not only do I enjoy watching the sport but I love cheering on my two favorite players: my nephews! I stand on the sidelines (in their team shirts of course!) and root them on, hopefully to victory.
As I watch and cheer from the sidelines, I am encircled by other parents and relatives doing the same. I typically experience a sense of camaraderie and sportsmanship—parents and relatives sticking together hoping that each player does well and that the team succeeds. This year, however, I have noticed a difference. Parents seem to be competing with each other. They are concerned that their child is not getting enough practice or upset that their child is not getting the opportunity to try new a position. Parents are accusing the coaches of showing favoritism to their own children. I must admit that the change amongst the parents has saddened me. I have witnessed parents comparing their children to other children while criticizing the efforts of another child and badgering coaches. It makes me wonder what is really going on with our parents!
I have witnessed coaches calling children names and I have seen coaches ignore the less talented when teaching a new skill. These would definitely be times to advocate for your child, but knowing when to step-in can be a challenge. My thinking is this: Step in when the treatment of your child goes against your values and beliefs. If you truly believe your child is not getting a “fair chance” then talk to the coach, ask questions and seek a resolution. Most importantly, remember to have that conversation in private and off the field.
I definitely believe in parents advocating for their child. Every parent wants his or her child to have opportunities that will help him succeed. But what I have been witness to lately is oppositional and hurtful –the opposite of advocating. Hearing parents criticize or make negative statements about a child’s efforts, skill or talent is never acceptable. As parents, we need to make sure we keep our negative thoughts to ourselves and do our best to support ALL children. Children who play football, or any other sport, know the rules and know what is expected of them. This means they also know when they fall short or are out-played by their opponent. What they need when this happens is advice from the coach and encouragement from parents. Regardless of the outcome, win or lose, we need to remember they are still children.