Sideline parents

Alana Cervera, Online Manaing Editor, Sports Columnist

I loved all my teammates’ parents. They drove me to practice, cheered for me on the sidelines and went out to dinner with my family. I would say I was as close to them as my teammates. They were a part of our team, journey and gymnastics family.

This was until the Gateway Challenge gymnastics meet in sixth grade. I was in level seven and had just competed that night. We all planned to go out to dinner together and were driving separately. Unbeknown to me, two parents in our group had been drinking during the meet. Both parents were intoxicated and were found yelling at receptionists, judges who were staying at the hotel, and my teammates in the lobby.

“How dare you?” they screamed at their daughter, other athletes, and people around making a big scene. Other parents tried to deflate the situation, but the drunk parents started throwing hands. They spat and threatened to call the police.

They eventually did.

My mom and I did not see this personally, but were called to pick up the shocked teammates at the hotel nearby.

My teammates, with tears in their eyes, climbed into our car while some parents stayed back to deal with the police. I had never experienced something like this and was extremely shocked to see the immaturity and irresponsibility from my teammates’ parents. I wasn’t expecting this outrage at all.

But, their behavior only continued to get worse.

They constantly came in the gym and screamed at their daughter, other parents, and coaches. They disrupted practice and cursed out everyone. Their family was soon asked to leave the gym and because word got around to other local gyms, my friend had no place to train. Her parents ruined the family’s reputation and I’ve never seen them since they left the gym. I don’t believe my teammate ever competed in gymnastics again.

Crazy parents in sports have been around forever. Being a daughter and former athlete, I’ve seen the worst of it all. They hover over their child, are too involved with their sport, scream at them from the sidelines, and always bring tension with them.

But, I want to remind parents about children’s sports.

Kids are playing youth sports for a reason. We’re just kids, wanting to have fun, work hard, play hard, and make new friends. When parents become overly involved, sports don’t seem like a fun activity they are now a forced practice kids don’t want to go to.

What does this mean for parents and children?

Parents need to understand hands off is better in most situations. Let your ego go. That’s all the screaming and fussing is about in the end.

Your child shouldn’t be focused on you. They should be concentrating on their coach and game.This is most important for their success and safety. I think what crazy parents need to understand is that their children’s lives are not theirs. Their wins, losses, failures, and dreams belong to them and not anyone else. Forcing their child to compete in a sport they don’t want can be detrimental.

A parent’s job is to not live through their child, but encourage, support, and guide them through life.

I know this is the way my parents put me through sports. They constantly told me I could quit anytime if I didn’t want to participate anymore. This gave me freedom to love my sport without having my parents too involved. They cheered me on from the sidelines and supported me no matter if I won or lost. I’m grateful for their compassion because I’ve known they’re always proud of me. I hope all athletes experience something like this.

With all this said, I understand I’m not a parent so I can only speak so much. But, to all the parents with children in sports, please love your child enough to let them go.

Lift them up when they have a bad practice instead of nagging them the whole car ride home. Trust me, we get enough of that from our coaches. Offer advice when they ask and help them in this journey. I understand parents are paying for sessions, driving to and from practices, and organizing carpools. Make sure your child loves the sport they’re in and it hasn’t become your hobby.

And if you do this, I believe your kids will thank you in the long run and it will save a lot of wasted time for both you and your child.

It’s their life in the end, not yours.