Don't be THAT parent!

My son played in a local recreation league soccer game this past weekend against a team from another part of our county and, as has been the result all season, they lost. Each week I go to watch my son play and support him from the sidelines, and this winless streak has been really challenging to digest. You see, this is the third season in a row where his soccer team - which have all been different teams with different players - has yet to win a game. They say that losing builds character. Honestly, I don't know how much more character my son needs.

When you have a child who plays a sport, you of course want them to win, but at the same time you have to realize that your nine-year-old child is probably not drawing a lot of college scouts at this point, so it's okay to not stress over the outcomes too terribly much. When I am on the sidelines, I am there to watch my son play. What I mean is, I don't holler at him and try to coach him from the cheap seats. He has a coach for that. I go to support him and then when we get home we talk about the game and I encourage him and offer instruction in areas that may need improvement. He doesn't need me to push him unnecessarily. Most kids don't need or want that anyway.

But of course, if you are THAT parent, this is exactly what you do.

THAT parent had a child on the other team that my son played and lost to on Saturday. THAT parent constantly verbally challenged the referee on the calls that didn't go his team's way. Ironically enough, THAT parent was incorrect about almost every challenge that he verbalized, but I didn't want to interfere with his delusion. Finally, THAT parent's son challenged a ball that our goalkeeper had already grabbed, kicking at the ball when our keeper already had it well under control. The referee cautioned this young man against committing such an action again, when THAT parent decided it was time for him to take over the game.

THAT parent loudly called out from the sideline to his son, "Good job, son. Do it again." Was THAT parent actually encouraging his son to kick another player when he had the ball? Uncertain of what had just been said, the referee stopped play and looked at THAT parent and cautioned him against such behavior. Sure enough, THAT parent yelled to his son again, "Hey son, good job at trying to kick that ball away. Do it again." The referee then cautioned THAT parent that, if he has one more such outburst, he would be asked to leave the field. Guess what happened? THAT parent called to his son one more time, "Do it again son, you're doing great!"

Imagine the scene for a moment. Here is THAT parent encouraging his son to commit a sports act that was forbidden in the rules. Think of a parent yelling from the bleachers for his son, who is a baseball pitcher, to throw the ball at the next batter's head. Yeah, that's not very cool. Yet this is what we were all witnessing and the kids on the field from both teams just stood there and took all of this in. Parenting Fail 101 in full display.

The referee approached THAT parent and asked him to leave the field, which to no one's surprise he refused to do. The referee then had to approach the coach of the team for THAT parent's son and asked her to intervene, which she did. She told THAT parent that, if he did not leave the park, then their team would have to forfeit the rest of the game that they already had well in hand. At this, THAT parent threw his hands up in innocent protest and walked to the parking lot, where he attempted to take in the remainder of the game from a distance.

Once the game was over, the first thing my son said to me had to do with the incident involving THAT parent. Sure, he was upset about another loss, yet more vivid in his mind was what he had witnessed THAT parent doing and saying on the field of play. We had a brief conversation about the incident, but there was no need for me to tell my son about the ethical nature of that situation. He had seen THAT parent acting the fool and no one needed to explain to him what he had seen.

Look, I want to win just as much as the next guy. I long to see my son attain soccer glory and hoist the league cup one day on the shoulders of his teammates. Yet I also realize that if fail to teach my son how to win with grace and lose with class, that I have indeed failed my son. I could imagine THAT parent taking his son to Chuck E. Cheese's after the game and reveling with him over his near miss at inflicting injury on another player. And then I can only hope that THAT parent's son will be able to detach himself from such insanity and realize that there are certain legacies that are not worth attaching himself to.

Winning will always be awesome and losing will always stink, but the greatest victory is the character that we as parents can instill in our kids as they play the sports that they love. One day my son will win his fair share of soccer games and I hope that he goes far as an athlete. But either way, I am committed to avoid being THAT parent in front of my son and his teammates. He could win every game from here on out, but what would it matter if I lose all respect in the process?

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