Every time I travel with my children for competitive sports, the things I hear infuriate me and I need to rant. My recent trip to Vegas didn’t let me down. Our boys U13 lacrosse team was playing in a consolation game, and the refs were calling penalties on kids holding the ball for more than 20 seconds. The goalie of the opposing team had the ball and was trying to decide whom to throw it to. The poor kid held onto it too long and a mother on his team screamed at the top of her lungs, “What is this, the Special Olympics”?
What could possibly inspire a mom to yell something so hateful during a youth sports event? Have we sunk this low as parents, that we are not only criticizing the way our kids play, but mocking one of the greatest programs that we have in this country? Same game...one of the dads on the opposing team started smack talking our players during the game. A dad was yelling at 13-year-old boys while they were playing? This is where my ugly side comes raging out of control and I want our boys to take their stick and slash that knucklehead across the mouth. I can’t begin to tell you how much self-control it takes for me to stay quiet. Why does it have to get so ugly, every time?
I love youth sports more than anything in the world, but I think we are in such a weird place between the fun component and the competitive side. We get all geared up to go to these tournaments, because frankly, they are a blast. We all love watching our kids play because it’s magical.
And for many of us, we love the other families that we travel with. I think it’s fair to say we have a ton of fun both on and off the field. But once the tournament starts, this weird thing happens from the minute you get out of your car and start heading over to the field. It’s like you’ve entered the “Youth Sports Twilight Zone,” and you don’t get out of the zone until you exit the field, and head home. You need to “buckle up buttercup” because this zone is hardcore and you must show more restraint than you ever will as a civilian. While you’re in the zone, anything goes. You will see, hear and experience things that you never expected from other parents.
You hear negative murmurs all around you. Most of the time you try to tune it all out. You hear more complaining in this YSTZ than you’ve heard in your entire life. Parents get incredibly pissed off during these tournaments. If your team is winning, everyone is happy. If your team is losing, it’s an entirely different story. When you are on a competitive team, and you’re losing, how competitive does it get? Do you sit out all the second string players, even if that family has committed to the team and traveled a few hundred miles to play? Everyone is scurrying around trying to figure out what the problem is, and how he or she can fix it. Everyone (Myself included) wants to “Coach” and decide the substitutions and the line-ups because after all, we know these kids way better than the coaches. It boils down to this: Are you there to have fun, or to win? This one I can answer — we travel to win. But the downside is ugly.
We try to be role models, but we’re only human and we get frustrated. But as heated as the games can get, I’ve never heard any of our parents scream ugly things at our kids, ever. What’s the point?
In a perfect world, I would love to just enjoy the moment and watch our kids play sports. Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world, and the pressure that surrounds these kids is enormous.
Here’s to the “Off the field” part of travel teams! What say you? Email me at email@example.com.