Dear Parents: Stop Living Through Your Kids!

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Danny Fisher

I am a part of a sports family. No doubt about it. We have traded long, hot summers at a lake house or camp for traveling to baseball or soccer tournaments for as long as I can remember.  

At each of these events, no matter the sport, we always see one of ‘them’. They lurk in the shadows of the benches, just out of sight not to be seen by the common fan, but their presence is more than felt. Their booming voice can be heard for miles, as they stalk and bark orders at their kid who is only trying their best. As their kid strikes out with the bases loaded or misses that wide open goal, a few expletives will be dropped before they abruptly walk back to the car, not having the patience to watch their child fail once more.

I’ve seen it plenty of times in my time traveling for golf tournaments, parents living vicariously through the 18 holes their kid just played. As one parent walked off the course in disgust after his kid played less than ideally, he exclaimed, “We need to work harder! We can’t play like that again!”

Whether it’s waking up in a cold sweat prior to the big game or pointing out any misstep their kid makes, parents need to get out of they way when it comes to youth sports.

First of all, no kid enjoys watching their dad yell until his face turns red. Let’s back up a second. Yes, I did say dad. Most of these parents, in my experience, have been fathers pushing their son/daughter harder than imaginable. While there is the occasional soccer mom who can go off the rails, fathers seem to have been the majority.

Most importantly, having a distraction like this takes away from the athlete’s experience. Instead of getting lost in their love for the game, their headspace is filled with negative thoughts. They hope for a mistake-free game instead of having fun and playing freely.

On top of this, I can’t say I have encountered anyone who loves being around a person who acts like this. It just isn’t that fun for other observers who have come to enjoy an event when you’re just trying to enjoy a nice day watching your kid do what they love.

Now, I should be the last one to ever judge a parent. I can only imagine the time, expense, and energy you have put into your child’s success on and off the field. You have more than enough right to act however you want when watching your kid do what they love.

Yet, when looking at it from a larger perspective, does a parent receive any short or long term benefit from acting this way? I know the kids don’t. Furthermore, the parents around them that are trying to enjoy need to find a safe haven away from the blast zone that could erupt at any moment. Whichever way you like to watch your child, just know it is in everyone’s best interest that you stay reserved.

With all this being said, there is a fine line to be walked. I think the most important factor to consider is the place the criticism is coming from. Parents, like mine, and most who enjoy sports and what they entail, show their emotions from a place of love.

Sure, what they say can sometimes be tough to swallow and a little harsh, but it is always out of love in an effort to make us better. This creates the discipline for the athlete to grow while maintaining a healthy relationship with his/her parent and the sport he/she loves. The other side of the line can be detrimental to a kid’s confidence, with their mistakes being highlighted far more than their successes.

See where you fit on the spectrum. Find your balance. Hopefully you’re right near the line, and if not, good luck to your kid at the next event. They’ll need it.