We have all heard of “helicopter parents.” We have seen them and heard them. Now, according to a Time Magazine article, they have taken their acts to the Little League fields.
Author Dan Cray says that that frightening phenomenon on the grassy fields across our nation has taken flight to other venues where little children and supposed to enjoy sports like little children. Here’s a link to his article: http://ti.me/10q08oO
“Parents taking meaningless games too seriously is an all-too-familiar Little League problem, but in games involving the youngest children—ages five to nine—it’s now the coaches who are creating an unsettling new offshoot. The issue, psychologists say, is that ‘helicopter parents’ who are obsessed with winning often join the coaching staff for their child’s team, becoming ‘helicopter coaches,’ literally perching themselves next to the outfielders or near the batter’s box so they can continually shout instructions to the children.”
Those of you who have seen this please raise your hands? OK, those millions of hands can be lowered now.
I guess the reason this struck a nerve for me was my recent weekend experience officiating the youngest of ice hockey players – the mites. You have seen them if you have ever attended a Flyers games. They are the adorable little boys and girls who skate and fall – mostly fall – as they follow each other around in endless pursuit of the hockey puck.
Their joy comes in smacking their sticks on the puck and perhaps watching it go into the net. Then they can do their best Danny Briere celebration motion and hopefully not fall on their butts as they do it. It is clearly a joy to watch. At least it is for me. I enjoy these games as these are the most innocent of athletes, out there to simply have fun or to knock their best buddy “Bobby” or “Johnny” on his behind.
When a goalie makes a great save I pick up the puck and give him a little “fist bump.” They get all smiles and it gives them the sense that we are the referees but we’re having some fun like they are.
We had a team of coaches last weekend that had to be the poster boys for the “helicopter coaches.” There was constant yelling, screaming, an endless litany of instructions to the point that even I was getting confused – which ain’t hard.
Cray quotes Temple professor Lois Butcher-Poffley, a Temple University sports psychologist and a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s sports psychology registry who says “This is a way for the helicopter parent to gain access where they were banned before.”
And I can see that.
I love this paragraph from Cray’s story:
“Reggie Jackson once created a firestorm by telling reporters, ‘When we lose and I strike out, a billion people in China won’t care.’ Reggie understood: sports is entertainment, and for the players, it’s about enjoyment — something that the youngest children understand intuitively. Sports can be a powerful way of teaching children about discipline and responsibility, but it may be just as important for the lessons it teaches coaches as well. Why can’t they just let the kids play?”
I couldn’t agree more.
These coaches last weekend made my skin crawl. And honestly I think most people watching understood their misdirected coaching techniques. I did notice more than one set of rolling eyes and the yelling, shouting and berating continued on and on and on.
I was definitely happy when that game ended. I felt embarrassed to be out there and even more embarrassed for the coaches. One even challenged a penalty call of which at that level is less of an event than with the older kids.
There was a potential for injury and my game is that I am out to have fun with these little guys and girls but their safety is primary. And if a player does something that borders on a safety issue then I have to address it. It’s my job. Apparently the coach disagreed and the penalty shot cost him the game – or so he says as no one keeps score with the youngest of players.
My response? “Coach, don’t worry — life will go on.”
I’m certain he told his son on the ride home in the car that the ref cost him the game. And I’m sure that little kid probably could care less.
Maybe it’s time to put some of the maniac parents and the “helicopter coaches” out in the parking lot and let the kids just play. I’m sure they would have a much better experience and definitely a lot more fun. We all would.
— Andy Hachadorian