Overzealous parents can ruin youth athletics

SPORTS COMMENTARY

Lucas Myers

For the Review

I was in the gym doing my weekly workout when a story came on ESPN that caught my eye. The story almost knocked me off  my treadmill.

It was about a 13-year-old girl who is a  gifted basketball player. She is so talented that she had been playing in a boys league, but parents soon decided that they didn’t want their boys playing with a 6-foot 1-inch girl who was better than them. Instead, the girl will be forced to play with other girls who will not give her any competition.

The broadcast brought to mind many things that make parents appear unable to stay out of their kids’ sports.

I have played sports since before my memory allows me to venture back, and I remember always seeing parents get way too involved. These parents are usually the ones who were not much involved as children but for some reason they decide to live their athletic careers through their children.

In the aforementioned story, the parents of the boys seem to care more about their own embarrassment than what their children think. From an athlete’s perspective, most kids are not going to care if a girl plays with them; the boys will play and make the girl prove that she can play with them.

The parents should have  stayed on the backburner and let the kids just play their sport. It will still be basketball with or without the girl. A woman deserves to have the same chances men do, and, therefore, the girl should be able to play with tougher competition if that’s what she needs.

This story is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to problems with parents in sports. When a coach takes on an athlete anymore, he isn’t taking just the athlete; he is taking on the parents and any other over-interested family members. I remember being scared to death as a child when my father, the coach, would get screamed at by parents because their child only played three innings of a six-inning game.

My father never had the heart to tell them their child was playing a lot for how good the kids actually were. My father was a great coach who would train us in practice, but when it came to games, he just let us play. Everyone played, but parents were never happy even if their kid was playing, because they were not playing the position the parent wanted them to play. At some point, parents stopped allowing the coach to coach their children and decided, because they pay for their children to play, they are the coach’s boss and need to tell the coach how to do their job.

If this is the way the world works, then it is about time the coaches went to the parents’ house and told the parents how to raise their children.

I may sound biased and, as a coach, I probably am, but it is time our society regressed to realizing that handing a child everything they want will not create success. It used to be that sports could teach an athlete how to advance in the world with a little bit of hard work, but now it seems that sports have become corrupt and have allowed parents to take control of how their children play.

Parents today wonder why our generation is so dependent on them and have trouble leaving the nest, when in reality we can thank them for that. In high school, I had a best friend that I played on the basketball team with. His parents always pushed him to be the best and thought he was NBA-bound from the day he started walking.

His parents didn’t realize he was only 5 foot 7  inches and nowhere near good enough to play college basketball. He had always been coached by his dad and never knew anything besides starting and shooting. When we got to high school, he was expected to make varsity his freshman year, but instead I made varsity and he made the junior varsity team.

His parents were not satisfied with what happened, and took it to the school board to get the coach fired because their child wasn’t where they wanted him to be.

In the end, the coach was not fired and has rebuilt a struggling program back to its elite status.

This is just one example of parents getting too involved in their children’s sports.

I realize that some parents just care about their child and want them to do well, but sometimes parents try to relive their athletic days through their children. Parents can only push a child as far as they want to go, and the next step is not to take it into their own hands. The next step is to let the child do it themselves and allow the child to grow up on
their own.

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