Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Youth Sports: Parents Suck (Part One)

Crazy Youth Sports Parents Series

Youth sports would be so much better if parents limited their role to sperm and egg donors, sports financiers, secretaries, and taxi drivers. They can be fans, but they need to stand far away from coaches, umpires, refs, league volunteers, etc.

A few of the parents for the teams my kids played on this spring ruined the year with their complaining, bickering, scheming and undermining behavior.

Last year, my daughter's AAU basketball team was #1 in Ohio and finished #9 in the nation, but this year was filled with controversy from the beginning. Prior to this season, one of the team's best players left the team. She left to find a better technical and tactical coach, one that matched her skills and style. This made sense to me because the girl is a special talent. I was sad to see the girl go, but I understood the situation. My family wished her and her family well. I cannot wait to watch her play in college in 8 years.

With the departure of this key player, our team was not as dominate as it once was. Regardless, the team was still very strong. They won a 6th grade league as 5th graders and qualified for AAU Nationals Division I. The girl who left joined a new team, a team that became the dominate force in the state. The new team beat our team by 17 and went on to finish 5th in the country.

A few of the parents on our team could not handle being knocked down. As a result, they gave the coach a hard time. They called team meetings. They cajoled other parents on the team to join their fight. The next thing I know, I was in a meeting voting on a suggestion to skip the AAU Nationals. The group did not want their kids to be embarrassed at Nationals.

The Main Point

To me avoiding failure is just as damaging to a young girl's psyche as failing. What does avoiding failure teach a kid?

Were the parents worried about the fragile egos of their kids or their own egos?

I voted to go because 11 year old girls who compete in any tournament - win or lose - remember running in the halls of the hotel, racing up and down elevators, jumping on beds, swimming in the hotel pool and laughing with good buddies as much as the basketball.

I was in the minority. We did not go to Nationals.

Despite my displeasure at the situation, I was not overly vocal. My daughter played both AAU Basketball and travel soccer. She had to put soccer ahead of basketball because she was the starting goalie on her travel soccer team. As a result, she missed quite a few basketball games. My daughter was not a starter on the basketball team. One of the parents, called my daughter out for her lack of commitment in one of the meetings I missed. We made a decision to play multiple sports because our daughter is too young to specialize so I accept the criticism but if we had to do it all again, we would do the same.

I am not sure if it is connected to the situation, but my daughter has decided to give up AAU basketball and concentrate on travel soccer and school volleyball and basketball. Last year, she was thinking about giving up soccer to concentrate on basketball. Funny how things can change so quickly.

Parents, if you do not like a team situation don't be a cancer. Simply leave the team at the end of the season and find a better situation for your kid.


  1. Is it bball parents that seem to be the worst? This has always been the case for us. I thought it was because the girls have always played on the highest level for soccer, and played a step below in basketball. We call it 2nd team syndrome. When a parent first realizes that there might possibly be someone slightly better than their child it can be rough. IT generally gets better as they get older. Either the parents mellow out, or the kid drops out.

  2. My brother-in-law said coaching the kids was easy, it was dealing with the parents that was the hard part.

  3. Had the same thing happen over the years with my son's travel baseball team and my daughter's club volleyball team. Parents would rather their kids play inferior competition so they look better then to play superior competition to get better. Parents do ruin youth athletics.

  4. Oh, the dramas of AAU and ASA! All 3 of our kids were involved in travel teams. And unfortunately the drama finds its way into school ball too. I hope your daughter finds fun and satisfaction in her choice of sports from now through high school or college. The important thing is for her to have the desire to play because otherwise burnout on the sport could happen. Seen that happen SO many times with athletes my kids played with and with athletes my husband coached.

  5. I echo Janis's thoughts on your child enjoying her sports. If she still likes playing basketball, possibly she can find competitive opportunities to play with her friends (recreational leagues and tournaments, pickup games at the local ymca, park, etc.). Who knows where she'll be athletically two years from now. Things change-especially when you're only eleven!

  6. My take on not going to Nationals is a little different than yours. I'm not a huge fan of national tournaments at the youth sports level. The question of cost vs. benefit should always be addressed in considering to go to a national tourney. Parents' budgets are strapped. The cost of a national tournament can be burdensome. All for finding great competition for my kids to compete against, but it can also be done on a local level. I'm fortunate to be living in California. Son participates in club soccer & AAU/USATF track and field. He actually qualified for national AAU meet in T&F, but I never even considered going. Gets plenty of high level competition during track season and regional & national qualifier for USATF meet is outstanding competition. AAU in T&F is not big in California so it's easy to qualify for Nationals.

    On the soccer front, which is more comparable to your situation. Can get all the competition a 12 year old kid needs within an hour's drive. He doesn't play on a team that is capable of qualifying for a national championship. If he did, I would be in favor of doing it, because the team that qualifies has to go through all types of hurdles to do it; plus the club & the soccer league also contributes financially to making it happen.

    1. Clarence = Thanks for your perspective as always.

      BTW I agree with you - the issue here is that the team was put together for the sole purpose of making a AAU National Title run and then it was taken away late in the season. If the team had decided not to go before the season, I would not have cared a bit. Also, the AAU Nationals were just 4 hours drive - no airplane fares to deal with.

  7. Think this article does a good job of highlighting "the cost" angle of National Tournaments - "Promise of youth sports can come at a steep cost
    As expenses mount, so, too, do injuries and expectations:" http://www.indystar.com/article/20120822/SPORTS/208230338/Promise-youth-sports-can-come-steep-cost

  8. I am in the 8th year of my child's "ball career" and can honestly say that the biggest problem in youth sports today are parents. They suck when the team does great, they suck when the team does poorly, they just SUCK!I have been looking for the perfect story to demonstrate the current situation but it is so bad that there just aren't words disparaging enough to explain how poisonous a small group of people who are miserable in their own existence can make it for others. I am a "recovering Christian" who strayed from my faith for many years and was one of the worst sports parents ever. As I get back to where I should have never left I see the err of my ways and wish I could change it! But see myself slipping backwards too! What reaffirming my faith has done is open my eyes to the narcissists and fake do gooders out there! Remember this, God is always watching and no matter how you present yourself, he knows your heart.

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