Five Types of Nightmare Parents

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

Sports parenting is a tricky thing. While I believe most people are inherently good, when they become parents and their children get into a competitive environment, it can bring out some less-then-desirable traits in all of us. While there are many types of bad sports parents, I’ve observed five main categories through the years. Have you ever slipped into any of these?

B-Rated
This is the classic, textbook nightmare parent. He (usually the dad) thinks it is his job to “get on” his kid either during the game, after, or both. What I’m describing goes beyond making comments about working or trying harder. This is the parent who turns his back on his child in disgust after a mistake saying, “That’s terrible!” This parent can’t wait for the car ride to yell at his child about his performance and say, “If you don’t want to be out there we can just call the coach right now and tell him.” The, ‘I’m paying too much’ or ‘My time is too valuable’ “to watch that,” guy. Fortunately, from my experience, this is also the rarest from of nightmare parent.

Rose-colored glasses
The other end of the spectrum is the parent who believes his or her child can do no wrong. He can’t stop talking about how special his kid is, the offers he’s getting, the new, better teams she’s considering going to. Sometimes it is overt, sometimes it is in the form of a seemingly innocent question such as, “How’s (your child) doing?” which is posed only as an excuse to then go on and talk about how great theirs is.

Activist
The activist is generally one who is disgruntled about the amount of playing time his or her child is getting. First they form coalitions, stirring up the discontent amongst the other parents whose children are also not getting the treatment they “deserve”. Generally in these situations the case is made that the coach is showing favoritism to some and not being fair. At the youth league level it is often said that the coach favors his child’s friends. At higher levels, many times the excuse given is that the coach is only playing the ones on his travel team. The activist tries to get enough like-minded support to go to the powers that be and have the coach removed. Since simply complaining about playing time isn’t a fireable offense, the charges are often trumped up to include bullying or some other form of mistreatment.

Behind-the-Back
These are parents willing to do whatever it takes to give their children an advantage, even if it hurts others. One time a coach of my son’s travel baseball team confided to me that a parent had approached him and said he thought we were really weak in the leadoff position of the batting order, (where my son had been slotted). Not surprisingly, he thought his son was better-suited there. So if the coach had listened to him, this dad would have been perfectly content to see my son suddenly on the bench and his kid in his place. It either would never have occurred to him that his meddling had adversely affected another youngster, or he wouldn’t have cared. The Behind-the-Back parent only knows about what’s best for him.

Loudmouth
The Loudmouth is probably the most common and may be the the category many of us fall into at times. The loudmouth, of course, argues calls with the officials from the stands. But he often also tries to help coach the team by making comments like, “We’ve got to pass!” or “We’ve got to make that play.” Even worse is when they pretend to be encouraging a player on their team by trying to rattle an opponent. They’ll say something like, “Just throw it straight down the middle. He hasn’t swung all game,” or “Get the rebound after she misses.” Ironically, if someone would ever stop the game and tell a Loudmouth they had been drafted into actually being the coach the rest of the game, my guess is they would turn beet red, sheepishly sit down and bite their tongue.

Of course there are many more types of “Nightmare” parents, but let’s dwell on the positives. There are also loads of “Dream” parents who come to the games, cheer for their children, their team, and maybe even show respect for players on the other team. This is the type of parent we should aspire to be. And looking in the mirror to see if we fall into any of the traps above is the first step in getting there.

Brian Gotta is a former youth baseball coach and volunteer Little League board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels and a baseball coaching book which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com

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