As a person without children but who grew up watching 80’s sitcoms, I am something of a parenting expert. Life should consist of pastel decor mismatched with neon shorts, snappy comebacks, and a great deal of stereotypical behavior.
While I was absorbing this vital information, I was also playing SAY soccer, and I was terrible. In twelve consecutive years on the field, I scored exactly two goals, one of which was actually for my team. My parents were at nearly every game, and you know what they said to me as I ran back and forth, terribly? Nothing. They said nothing, except maybe “You did a good job” or “I’m proud of the way you didn’t give up” or other supportive crap that did nothing to spark the self-hatred and interior destruction which is the demonstrated bedrock of all great athletes.
I could have been great. I could have been an Olympian, But no, my parents were more interested in whether or not I was enjoying myself and getting exercise instead of focusing on what was really important, which was, of course, reflecting well upon them as human beings.
Parenting usually fails, particularly in the arena of sports guidance, when people don’t listen to me and the lessons I learned long ago with one hand in a can of Planters Cheez Balls. For instance, this past weekend, my nephew’s baseball game was shortened when lightning made an appearance. As I’m sure you’ll agree, this was a highly irresponsible decision which valued avoidance of serious bodily injury over winning.
What kind of lesson does this teach these seven-year-olds? That at the first sign of potential electrocution you should just run away? That’s not the kind of work ethic I want to see ingrained in the very children I didn’t even push out of me.
Every now and then I hear parents weakly object that the point of youth baseball is having fun, as evidenced by this sign, apparently erected by some wuss Brewers fans:
This sign is crap. First of all, Brewers people, you better hope your child isn’t being scouted by your team since you celebrate home runs by sending a person in a foam costume down a giant slide, sometimes with his mommy. Take some notes on what we do here in Ohio after a home run: We blow stuff up. You don’t know how to baseball at all, Brewers.
Also, whether or not a major league scout is interested in your child at the age of five is immaterial. The point is that one could be interested, at some point, and it is your job, parents, to ensure maximum exposure of your child at all times by screaming at him, the coach, the umpire, the other team’s coach, the other team’s five-year-olds, and, if available, the opposing team’s parish pastor.
Here at Redleg Nation, we care about you and your child, but mostly your child’s pending athletic wear contract. Be sure, then, to carry this handy guide to adult behavior at child sporting events with you at all times:
What to Yell at Your Child
The best time to remind your child of what to do is in the heat of battle, when everyone he knows in his peer group and a large contingent of strangers are looking directly at him. Stressing proper play in loud tones is excellent preparation for his pending pro career:
“YOU HAD BETTER MAKE THE $85.00 UNIFORM FEE WORTH IT.”
“YOUR BABIP IS GOING TO BE TRASH IF YOU KEEP THIS UP, MASON.”
“GOD WILL NOT LOVE YOU ANYMORE IF YOU DROP THIS POP-UP.”
What to Yell At Your Child When He Screws Up
It goes without saying that the specter of your child making a mistake on the field of play is the worst thing that could possibly happen to either of you personally or to America as an international power. It’s important to underscore your child’s mistake so that everyone knows you don’t hate America:
“YOU HAVE BROUGHT SHAME UPON THE NAME OF THE ST. MONICA FIGHTING UNICORNS.”
“YOU WERE ADOPTED AND WE CHOSE INCORRECTLY.”
“YOU ARE WALKING HOME BECAUSE THERE IS ONLY ROOM FOR WINNERS IN OUR MINIVAN, ETHAN.”
What to Yell at Your Child When He’s Just Standing There
“WHY ARE YOU JUST STANDING THERE?!”
Most parents and coaches, fortunately, require no guidance in yelling at umpires or referees, so let us focus on location:
Where to Sit
Marking your territory begins in the parking lot. Park close and park often, four inches from home plate if you can manage it. You may see grandparents in wheelchairs straining to see their loser grandchildren out in center field; yielding a good seat to them is an extremely poor return on investment. You need to ensure a good angle for your kindergartener’s game film. Drop your chair where everyone can see—and most importantly hear–you.
When I was futilely dragging myself around every soccer field on the West Side, I knew there was pop waiting for me after the game. This was the highlight of any sporting event, and it formed my concept of solid athletic rehydration well into college, when my then-boyfriend asked me to bring him something to drink after a basketball game and I presented him with a can of grape Crush and he was appalled and I realized that this relationship was never going to work. Grape Crush is the best Crush.
When it’s your turn to provide snacks or drinks for your child’s team, I don’t want to hear anything about empty calories, celery sticks, flavored water, or GoGurt. I want hard energy replacement. Liters of 5-Hour Energy is good; espresso is better. Blending Red Bull, Anavar, and Nitro-Tech Protein Powder is an excellent way to re-hydrate while sliding in some vital bulk on a particularly non-ripped first grader.
Youth coaches have nothing better to do all day in their stupid jobs as warehouse managers or retirement advisors than listening to your specific demands regarding your child’s playing time and position placement. Be sure to emphasize your own athletic knowledge and prowess; if you played on the JV squad your sophomore year in high school, mention this several times, even if you never touched a football again. Your child’s coach will appreciate your expertise and close involvement.
Speaking of which, I’m available for individual coaching sessions with your child. You will find my liquor per diem rates quite reasonable.
I eagerly await your call, parents.
Proud aunt Mary Beth Ellis is a freelance writer and college teacher who lives in Cincinnati, OH. Her home site, BlondeChampagne.com, has existed in at least some form since 2003, and Mary Beth has been a regular columnist with one publication or another from the age of 16. Her first book, Drink to the Lasses, was published in 2006. She currently teaches college, runs personal wine tastings, gives literary readings, and stares into the middle distance.