I Just Don’t Get “Parent Pushers” {Share Your Life}


Parent Pushers

I few weeks ago I attended an indoor soccer tournament with my oldest son Kyle and brought along all of his siblings to watch (as is what often happens on weekends). When we arrived there was a championship game going on between a group of 11-year-old boys and it was a rather heated soccer match. But what shocked me (quite honestly) was overhearing the conversation between a boy that was sitting on the floor in front of us watching the game and his Dad, who was actually berating his 11-year-old son for not performing better and “making it to the finals”. Now as far as I was concerned, this was a simple indoor soccer tournament. There was nothing “at stake here”, nothing that was dependent upon this kid winning, nothing bad that was going to happen because he lost. Unless of course you count having to ride home with his Dad.

Now truly I do love the fact that my kids enjoy playing sports. I love the cardio workout that they get, I love that they have the chance to play and to be a part of a team, I love that that they are coached by someone who cares about and is passionate about the game- whatever game it is that they’re playing. But it’s the parents who believe that so much rides on the outcomes of these games that really frustrates me. Yes, I know that it would be really great if my kids get the chance to play soccer or football or baseball or swimming or whatever it is their heart desires at a high school level. And it would also be lovely if my kids have a chance to go on and play the sport that they love at the college-level perhaps even earning a little college scholarship money. Who wouldn’t love that?

And I have to allow for the fact, that maybe the only way that my kids are ever going to sincerely reach that level of play- is if they have pushy parents who encourage (or push) them to play at that level- every day, even at age 11. But do I want to be that parent?

Personally, I think it’s far more important that my kids just develop a natural love of athletics and sportsmanship, and want to get out and play “the game” for the love of it….. because for 99% of the population, that’s all that sports are ever going to be- a fun activity, not a career.

Think this parenting behavior is limited just to kids and sports? Oh no.

That same weekend I also had the chance to take my 9-year old son Jack to a chess tournament.  And because I was desperate to secure a seat next to a wall outlet (hey- a woman’s gotta blog and these things last for 6-8 hours!) I was also seated next to the place where they post the pairings and the results. So I had the pleasure of watching parents who were far too invested in their child’s chess-playing outcome, assess the situation. One Dad in particular made me nuts and I watched him conferring with his son over the standings between rounds, “psyching his child up” for his next round with phrases like, “If you can win this next one, you’ll be in first place for sure….” and then insisting that they go for a walk together outside of the room, “to clear his mental focus”. This boy was 6, maybe 7 tops.

Whatever happened to just building skills and doing things for enjoyment? Or am I just not getting this whole thing? What do you think? Do I need to become a little more invested and start taking these sports and activities more seriously? (After all, we are paying a fortune for some of these things!) Please leave me a comment and tell me what you think!

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Barb @ A Life in Balance
Twitter: BarbHoyer
March 19, 2013 at 5:33 am

A sports psychologist who is also a soccer coach came to our school this year to talk to the parents. He was the kind of kid who looked like he wouldn’t make it in soccer; he was skinny and short. However, his mom, and his dad, came to all his games and supported him. He said his mom used to give him constructive criticism after the game. She would acknowledge what he had done, and then bring up something he could work on for the next game, and encourage him again for what he had improved. Concrete information he could use to improve his game. He ended up playing at a very high level in college and now he’s coaching an elite team.

He said that as a kid, he never felt pushed. He felt like his mom was his cheerleader. That’s the kind of sports parent I want to be. I don’t want to push my kids as you described. Maybe I’m too laid back about sports. Maybe it doesn’t matter. My goal is for my kids to enjoy themselves, learn about teamwork and sportsmanship, and to be active. I’m hoping my kids will see the value of working at something as they watch me set goals for my running and work around the obstacles along the way like a sprained ankle.
Barb @ A Life in Balance recently posted..motivation monday: hope as an action verb


2 Sharon
Twitter: sharonmomof6
March 19, 2013 at 9:02 am

I so agree with you Barb.. I want my kids top see me as their cheerleader, because that’s what I feel I am. I want them to play sports for the love of it- not because they have to excel at it. My daughter takes horseback riding lessons, and when they asked if she wanted to start “showing” horse- I said “no way”. I don’t want to take this very thing that gives her absolute pure pleasure and turn it into something where we start keeping score…. or track or ribbons or trophies or whatever…


3 Diane March 19, 2013 at 7:58 am

I enrolled my son in a preschool instructional sports class at the Y that introduced the kids to soccer, basketball, football, floor hockey, and t-ball. The class was for ages 3-5 years. Most kids were around four years old. There was always one or two parents on the sidelines screaming at their kids the entire time. I suppose they were screaming words of encouragement, but that isn’t how it sounded, especially inside an cavernous gymnasium. I was told that it got worse at t-ball! The screaming parents admitted that they were high school athletes and they just wanted their kids to succeed. I was just stunned that it started at such an early age in a completely non-competitive setting.
Diane recently posted..Menu Plan Monday, 3/18/13


4 Sharon
Twitter: sharonmomof6
March 19, 2013 at 9:03 am

We’ve known a few parent screamers on our kids teams too- even from early ages. And from what I’ve seen, those are the kids that typically drop the sport after a few seasons. Who wants to be yelled at by their parents on the sidelines all of the time? Can you imagine if that’s how school worked?!


5 Amy March 19, 2013 at 8:57 am

Here’s my take on it – these parents couldn’t get it right when they played, so they are trying to live through there kids. Makes me sick – let them have fun!


6 Sharon
Twitter: sharonmomof6
March 19, 2013 at 9:05 am

Okay- I am going to play “devil’s advocate” here…. so at one point does it need to turn from “just have fun” to “I’m paying thousands of dollars a year here…. go out and win (that scholarship!)” Middle school? High school? Isn’t it too late by high school?

Or will kids excel or not based on their own abilities and motivation irregardless of a parent pushing them?


7 Marisa Stark March 19, 2013 at 9:46 am

Hi Sharon,
This topic is one of my pet peeves with sports around here. My third grade son plays flag football every fall, and the coaches are so intense it is scary. They yell at the kids, curse at the referees, and generally demonstrate a level of sportsmanship that is a horrible example for the kids playing. Our team was actually penalized in the finals for the coach yelling at the ref. They take third grade football way too seriously!! These coaches, incidentally, are all parents of kids on the team.
In the spring, my son plays Little League. My husband has always coached a team. This year, however, he was told there are too many volunteer coaches, so he won’t be needed. This is because our team was not one of the top-scoring teams in the past. My husband always tried to make sure the kids had fun and enjoyed the game, and was not one of the coaches beating the kids into the ground for not getting a hit. So apparently, this is not the kind of coach they want! I think it is a real shame that so many people can’t take a step back and see that these sports are for fun and exercise. As you said, even the top kids in the Pound Ridge/Bedford League are really not that likely to be making it to the majors. So relax and let the kids just enjoy playing!!


8 Sharon
Twitter: sharonmomof6
March 20, 2013 at 4:55 pm

The flag football league sounds even more intense than the 5th/6th grade tackle league! I was really concerned when my son wanted to play for the tackle program-beyond just the concerns about sports injuries, I was worried about how they would talk to the kids, the pressure they might feel, and how the other parents would behave. And I was very to find a supportive group who were parent cheerleaders rather than parent pushers. My son learned a lot about teamwork and respect by playing on this team.


9 christine@TheAums March 19, 2013 at 11:12 am

Organized and competitive sports are completely foreign to us. We play family games in our neighborhood and every once in a while join the free sports clinics in town that are meant to recruit new players, but that is pretty much the extent. Our homeschool group is trying to start a homeschooling baseball league, but already early talks among parents emphasize that it will just be purely for the fun of it.
christine@TheAums recently posted..A Reality Cooking Show You Can Watch With Your Kids


10 Chickadee Jess
Twitter: chickadeejess
March 19, 2013 at 11:30 am

This year my son has a fantastic baseball coach. Before we got started for the season he talked to the parents about sportsmanship and attitude. He said that ha’d seen some horrible behavior by parents in his years of coaching and playing baseball and it was a big reason why the kids lose the love of the game and decide to stop playing. He will tell any parent that can’t be respectful to kids (including the other team), coaches and umps that they aren’t welcome at the games. I think all coaches should have the same philosophy!
Chickadee Jess recently posted..Bitty Baby or American Girl Fairy Tale Dress Tutorial {Dressing Up Dolly}


11 Sharon
Twitter: sharonmomof6
March 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Yes, parents that yell from the sidelines are also a huge problem in youth sports. But what concerns me even more is what the parents are saying to their kids when they are talking to them after the game. Such pressure and high expectations!


12 Stephanie @ CMTS Blog March 19, 2013 at 9:06 pm

My little guy is to young for sports yet, but give him a few years and he will be. His daddy is a big time sports guy. Lucky for me, my husband is all about playing for the fun of it. As am I. I don’t understand nor do I like to see pushy parents. Encouragement is one thing. Being pushy about winning is another, and one that I don’t agree with!!
Stephanie @ CMTS Blog recently posted..Everybody poops. Even Mommies.


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