Five reasons why I'm a bad sports parent

Come and join me on the sideline.
Come and join me on the sideline. Photo: Shutterstock

Here's a question. Why sign your kid up to play water polo if he struggles to swim 10 metres? I'm sitting at a game, watching my son's team get flogged again. There's some smug opposition parent in front of me making all sorts of half comments. I could hear everything you said, mate. It took a lot of restraint not to accidently knock the man in the pool. It also took a lot of restraint not to make those same half comments myself about my own team.

My name is Karen Hardy and I am a bad sports parent. And here is why you don't want to sit next to me on the sideline.

It's been a long off-season

I love summer. Don't get me wrong. But summer sports are way too laid back. Give me a sideline to stand on any day. I miss cricket, and am encouraging a comeback, but that was for the leisurely hours on the boundary with a blanket and the weekend paper. Sure, there might have been the occasional exasperated sigh when that same kid dropped yet another catch but it never got niggly. And I've got months of niggle stored up. In my experience, poolside isn't the place to release it, nor the shores of the Lake while my daughter is out dragon boating. It seems a little pointless to yell out "paddle harder" at a passing boat that you're not even sure your kid is in. It's eight weeks, or thereabouts, to kick off. Bring it on.

I like winning

Winning is good. Winning makes playing sport better. Sure, if we're being all altruistic about it, it's not about winning. You loser. My kids have been playing sport for more than a decade now. Maybe Pee Wee soccer wasn't about winning. Like when they were three. But funny how the kids always knew what the score was. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those win-at-all-costs kind of parents. I'll never encourage dirty tactics nor playing outside of the rules (remembering that rules are only ever broken if the referee notices). But really, is sport still about participation once we've hit high school? (Yes, sport is still about participation once we've hit our 50s, but it's still about winning too.) But I'm sorry, your kid needs to want for his team to win as well. Last season I gave a few boys a serve when I overheard them saying they didn't want to go back on the field because the opposition was too good. Weight for age? How about we weigh tickers.

I'm not a good loser

It's not so much the losing but the effort. Nothing frustrates me more than teams not playing to their potential. Or teams not improving even though they've been playing together for seasons. Or losing to the same team every year because they don't believe they can ever beat them. Or your kid shirking off a tackle while other kids have been tackling their little tickers out. Or your kid missing an open goal after another kid did all the hard work to beat the keeper. Okay, life is full of losers. I am one. A big one. But we shouldn't encourage losing. It becomes a habit. At under 18s I don't need to hear one more platitude about having fun.

I actually know stuff

This is the main reason why you shouldn't stand next to me on the sideline. Particularly if you're a man who thinks he knows more than me. One who assumes just because I have a vagina it means I know nothing about sport. I know enough about the rules of most sports, about game play and tactics to hold my own. I have played, coached and officiated at many levels across a number of sports so I think that gives me some cred. At my first hockey game at my daughter's new school the grown man who was umpiring was, let's just say, interpreting a rule in a way that, one, made it dangerous for the kids, and two, wasn't allowing a free-flowing game. And I told him so in so many words. Politely enough. He threatened to expel me from the sideline. Loser.

I yell a lot

Just ask my kids who have banned me from yelling at their games. I've found it easier, on occasion, to just not show up. Or to head down the far end of the field where I can huff and puff to my heart's content without them hearing. One mother, my kindred spirit, had the same problem with her daughter so we made a deal that we'd just yell at each other's daughters. They didn't see the fun in that. We enjoyed it.

But really it's about none of this

I'm not really a bad sports parent. Indeed I'm probably the best sports parent you can imagine. The whole point of me being so emotionally invested is that I want my kids, and your kids too, believe it or not, to play sport for as long as their aging bodies will let them. And then a few years after that. I want them to suck all the marrow they can from sport. To learn life's lessons about winning and losing and teamwork and humility and confidence surrounded by mates they would give their lives for. If that makes me bad, then pull over a chair and join me on the sideline.