Tuesday, June 9, 2015

What kind of Sideline Parent are you?

Anyone who has a tournament or two has noticed that not every parent is the same. As in any group, it takes all kinds. I’d like to share with you something that was part of our Ballistic Blog. We are in the process of moving and adding to the original blog, but we thought this entry was particularly appropriate for this point in the season.

When you are on the sidelines of your child’s lacrosse (or any other sport) game, what kind of parent are you? Over the years, we’ve come across five major categories of parents: the Drop-off Parent, the Gossip, the Wallflower, the Cheerleader, and the Coach.

Which are you?

We had so much fun with this blog that we made it into an online quiz! Take it here and see how you fare. 

Here is a helpful guide that might give you some idea as to which you are and how you affect the team. 

The Drop-off Parent.

This is an easy one. Your kid practices at 6pm. You drop him or her off at about that time. You go shopping, get some food, make a few phone calls, play Words With Friends. Just before the end of practice, you reappear to pick up your kid. For games, you probably morph into one of the other four categories because you typically do go to the big events.

Pros: You get your child to practice on time. You pick him up on time. Your low profile doesn’t ruffle any feathers, and you don’t get involved in sideline politics, so most people either like you or are indifferent to you. Your kid gets to participate; you get to kill some time and do a little solo shopping or hanging out.  

Cons: When your son or daughter wants to share what happened at practice, you have to rely on their narration skills to paint a picture of what their life is like when you aren’t there.

Advice: You know, some kids don’t care if their parents are there. Some do. As a coach, I think it is nice to be able to walk over to a parent during practice and share with him or her something that just happened or discuss a behavior that might need fixing or to celebrate a great achievement. If you aren’t there, we can’t do that. Many sports sociologists advise that kids prefer their parents to watch them do what they love. Ask your child. He or she knows best.

Things the Drop-off parent will say:

“I just don't get that much time on my own to run errands, so I have to do it during practice.”
Translation: I am really busy and, while I know everyone is really busy, I choose to drop my kid off and get caught up.

The Gossip.

Sporting events, like all social functions, are a great place to catch up on the latest gossip. You can tell the Gossip parent because they don’t watch the game or practice and are always chatting to the person next to him or her. For many people, youth sports are not all that interesting, so the chance to meet up with other similarly bored parents is a positive aspect of your kids’ participation.

Pros: You are there. Your kids can see you and they think you might be watching them, too. You are putting in the effort to show support.

Cons: The Gossip often fuels or taps into the negative energy that some parents bring to every event. They absorb complaints about coaches, play time, other players, the organization of tournaments and share the info as if it were undisputed fact. The problem is that there are always disgruntled parents in every youth sports organization, and they often blow out of proportion the smallest perceived slight, inequity, or unfairness and paint the whole organization with a broad brush. It’s not fair to anyone, really, and can cause morale to plummet as everyone looks to find evidence of the perceived wrong in their own experiences with the organization. 

Advice: Life after high school really is no different from high school. Have you ever heard of positive, supportive, and constructive gossip? No, me neither. So, maybe talk about the weather. Or the kids’ amazing play. It might make the team family more cohesive. Remember that half of what you hear from anyone who is gossiping is either unsubstantiated or just plain made up. The other half is, at best, questionable. 

Things the Gossip parent will say:

“Didn’t you know that the coach is best friends with #34’s parents?”
Translation: My kid isn’t playing as much as his kid OR #34, so it must be because of a friendship thing not because of skills or abilities.” (The obvious question to ask is WHAT coach would play a kid—his or anyone else’s—who is not able to get the job done. Coaches want to win, too.)

“I heard from someone who shall remain nameless that…”
Translation: This is my theory and I made the whole thing up, but I am going to pretend it has a real source…

The Wallflower.

These make up a large number of the families in most youth sports. These are the people who sit watching the game but don’t say much. Maybe they aren’t the cheering types, maybe they are new to the group and don’t feel comfortable yet. Some just don’t understand the sport all that well and are not wiling to yell out when they aren’t entirely sure what just happened. 

Pros: These are the backbones of many teams. They are the parents who will bring extra drinks and snacks without being asked. They will always help out and tend to be respectful of everyone. They will tell kids after each game how well they played, but quietly and without a lot of fanfare. They don’t complain about play time or if their kid got the ball enough. They are observers of both the team and the parents. 

Cons. We coaches don’t get to know them well. Neither do other parents. They seem nice, though, and we’d love to talk to them more than we have so far. If you don’t want to know the REAL answer to a leading question, like, “Don’t you think #34 gets to play more than he should since he isn’t all good, anyway?” or “Don’t you think the coach is an idiot?” then don’t ask these parents. They may come out and tell you what you don’t want to hear.

Advice: Speak up. Get to know the other parents around you. Avoid the ones that are negative. Keep saying positive things to the players when they walk off the field after the game. That means more to them than you can ever know.

Things the Wallflower parent will say (if they talk at all):
“That was a great game!” 
Translation: I am not sure what the rules are but the score was close and it was a lot of fun to watch the kids play so hard.

“The kids played with a lot of heart.”
Translation: We got our butts kicked, but the kids never quit. I applaud them for that.

“That parent certainly is enthusiastic.”
Translation: The guy in the red shirt is screaming at his kid, the referees, and the opposing parents and he is embarrassing himself and us.

The Cheerleader.

These are the parents that everyone hears on every sideline. You can often hear them from the next county, as well! They are loud, passionate, sometimes even correct in what they are saying! They are the ones that know all the kids by name and will be vocal about bad calls…well, bad calls against their team. That’s because ALL calls against their team are inherently bad. These parents get the other parents revved up but, honestly, tend to embarrass the players to the point where they can’t look in their direction. You will find these guys sitting in the front row of every game, their folding chairs placed for the best view. 

Pros: Who doesn’t love it when someone has spirit? The Cheerleader parent will always yell supportive things at our players, call for them to get the job done, and play well. We need those parents to keep the other parents positive and upbeat. The kids don’t often hear them. Truth be told, kids don’t hear anything on the field except their teammates and their coaches, the former because they want to and the latter because they have to. Parents are like gnats in their ears, slightly annoying but if you move away they will stop buzzing.

Cons: Sometimes, the Cheerleaders get a little too rambunctious. They might yell TOO much, and at the wrong people. They sometimes get into it with referees and other parents. Sometimes, cheering FOR your kid sounds a lot like yelling AT your kid.

Advice: Cheering is great. Make sure your cheering is positive. Too often, the yelling at the players and referees turns ugly, and the nonstop chatter can start to cause conflict among players, referees and other adults watching the games. We’ve seen kids pick up the negative vibes from the overly vocal parents and get chippy on the field. 

Things you will hear the Cheerleader parent say:

“Good idea, Billy!” 
Translation: ‘Good idea’ is a universal sideline parent sports term that means a range of things, but generally implies that the player did something that, on paper, was plausible but in the real world was not gonna happen. The translation has varying levels of meaning, starting with “Nice pass, too bad it didn’t get there” and moving on to “Wow, that was colossally ill-advised” to “What snapped in your brain that made you think that was possible?” This term is only heard when the Cheerleader’s team is ahead or close to the other team. 

“Come on, ref?????” 
Translation: The referee is the biggest idiot every spawned.

“Come on, boys, you gotta hustle!”
Translation: You are a team of slugs. Please go faster.

“Let’s go!” 
Translation: The ball was just picked up by our team and is moving in the right direction. 

Translation: I can’t believe there was no penalty called there.

The coach.

Invariably, the Coach Parent will be start each game standing up on the sidelines. He (yes, it is usually a dad) will pace the sidelines for the duration of the game, yelling until he is red in the face, and waving his hands like one of those guys at the airport who direct the planes into and away from the terminal…but sped up 8000 times. The Coach Parent does not watch the game but rather attempts to control it from his position on the sidelines. His means to do so is his son or daughter, to whom he yells incessantly the directions he feels the coach must surely be missing or have forgotten. Well, no, the coach is an idiot, and THIS is how the team should be run. Forget the fact that the Coach Parent never actually PLAYED the sport, is not a coach by profession or avocation, and has no real idea what the plays the boys or girls have spent weeks learning actually DO. These guys almost always have a player on the team who is good, but whom the Coach Parent feels A) is not recognized for his brilliance by the team/coach/universe; B) is under-utilized by the idiot coaching the team (i.e. he is not given the ball every time it is possible), and C) should be the kid in FRONT of the goal and ALL times so as to maximize his scoring potential. These are the parents who want their kids to be the top goal scorers despite the fact that the player actually wants to play defense! They may have played a sport in high school, or possibly college, and they are usually reasonably successful in their profession, which seems to translate into expertise in ALL professions. 

Pros: Well, none. Seriously. None.

Cons: They disrupt the enjoyment of the game for the other parents. First, this is because they yell too much and spoil the atmosphere; second, because they generally cuss out or hurl insults at the REAL coach, the other players on BOTH teams, and the referees. They often confuse the players on the field by telling them to do something that will bring personal glory but is not in keeping with the game plan or set play the real coach has prepared. 

Things you will hear the Coach Parent say:

“Shoot!” (to his son or daughter)
Translation: Do NOT pass that ball, dammit! YOU keep it and YOU run to the goal and YOU shoot it. 

“Give him some help!” (to his kid)
Translation: You need to go to your teammate who has the ball and take it from him because, clearly, that kid is sub-par compared to you.

“Play your game!” (to his kid)
Translation: Ignore your coach and play MY game…the one that I am yelling to you from the sideline…the one that has nothing to do with your team or what you’ve learned at practice.

“What are we doing out there?” (to all other parents)
Translation: This team is obviously being coached by someone who has been lobotomized and has no grip on the boots-on-the-ground reality of the situation (which is critical). How do we call for DefCon Five or maybe a military coup that will unseat the negligent madman at the helm?

“Are you watching the same game as me?” (to the referee)
Translation: You suck. 

So...which one are you?

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