Over a month ago, a disturbing photo caught the attention of social media, as an adult man appeared to be hitting a teenage soccer player with a solid object. It was later on revealed that the incident occurred in a football game in Cebu City, in a tournament participated by mostly high school student-athletes under 18 years old. The assailant was later on identified as a customs police who ran into the field to rescue his godson from being “grappled” by the victim.
This incident in Cebu may have been viral for days but there have been several similar cases in sports that have not made the news in the past. Brawls are not uncommon in many sporting events. Neither is the over-involvement of parents, or adults in general, in games where their kids play.
I have been coaching basketball for over fifteen years now and I’ve seen some of the worst cases of parents trying to get too involved with their kids’ games.
From what I’ve seen, I can name five types of parents that can be considered as getting too involved in the games.
1. The Overprotective Parent
This type definitely fits the bill of the adult in the Cebu incident, although in that case, he was trying to protect his nephew. Basketball and football are both contact sports that can be highly physical at certain times. When emotions are high or when the pressure is too much, players tend to get into fights. But parents should not. As spectators, parents should leave the game officials to address the situation.
There had been some sensationalized incidents before in basketball of parents attacking players from the opposing team who got entangled with their sons during the game. I remember one case in the UAAP in the late '90s when a father tried to confront a player who gave his son a hard foul during the game.
I also remember when I once coached the San Beda Red Lions in a pre-season game against the Ateneo Blue Eagles. The taller and heftier Bam Bam Gamalinda was “physically” guarding a young Jai Reyes. From the stands of the Blue Eagle gym I heard Jai’s mom, Manet, yell, “Hoy Jude, pag nasaktan yang anak ko ha!”
We would laugh about it after the game though as the Reyeses are good friends.
Okay, I get that parents don’t want their children getting hurt while playing the games and that emotions drive some of them to do crazy stuff. But it’s all part of the game and there are proper ways of handling these situations, like letting the league officials do their jobs.
Better yet, if you are too scared for your child, have them play chess or tennis instead.
2. The Parent-Agent/Manager
There are also those who are trying to make future superstars out of their children in sports that they’ve built their world around their child’s playing career. It’s perfectly normal to admire your child and even believe that he is the best in the world. But to be too hands-on in laying out the path towards the kid’s future stardom may be going a bit too far. This is especially prevalent with high school players going into college.
Parents, especially fathers, tend to act as agents or managers when negotiating with college squads. Again, this is fine, especially when the player is still a minor. As a parent, you would want the best for your child.
But some parents attempt to take advantage of the situation by asking ridiculous perks from the recruiting school. Today, they are no longer contented with scholarships and free board and lodging. Oftentimes, monetary compensation on a monthly basis is made part of the deal. This then subjects the kid to a bidding war among schools.
Parent-agents (or stage parents) tend to sell their kids too hard. But many of them really do believe what they say about their kids. More often than not however, it becomes a case of “too much icing and not enough cake.”
There are also parents that demand more playing time for their kids. I completely get it that you want to see your son play the entire 40 minutes of basketball. But be reasonable. The coach will always act according to how he thinks the team can win. And oftentimes, you won’t meet eye-to-eye because you are more concerned about seeing your son play. Many parents just can’t see the fact that other kids are better than theirs.
Controlling the kid’s playing career too much puts a lot of pressure on his performance that often results to failure.
3. The Parent-Coach
This type of parent is more common among retired athletes, or frustrated athletes. They would want their kids to achieve more in the sport than they have ever achieved. In the case of former star athletes, they would want their kids to achieve the same success.
Nothing wrong with this for sure. But many of them tend to over-coach their kids.
In many cases, this type of parent pushes the kid too hard that he eventually loses interest in the sport because it’s no longer fun.
I have witnessed several times fathers (mostly ex-PBA players and/or current coaches) that even approach the bench during time-outs to give their own instructions and tips. They also constantly talk to their sons from the stands during the game.
The worst scenario is when the parent teaches his son something that contradicts the coach’s own instructions. This puts the kid in a tough situation of choosing which instruction to follow.
4. The Whiner Parent
This type complains a lot when things don’t go his kid’s way. He does not demand from the coach like a Parent-Agent does. But he whines indefatigably about it. He can’t sleep until he has vented his hard feelings out on ten people.
Usually, this parent is unhappy about his kid’s playing time. Some are not agreeable on how his kid is being used in a game, like the position or role that he (the kid) plays.
In some cases, they pull their kids out of the team because they feel it’s just a waste of time being in it. I have seen some young players being brought by their parents from one school to another until they are satisfied with one team. In most cases, they are never satisfied, so the kid ends up giving up the sport.
5. The Passionate Parent
All the four previous types can also fall under this type. After all, they are driven by their passion towards their kid’s game. But passion is something that must be controlled as well. It is good to be passionate about something but not to the point of embarrassing one’s self, or the kid.
You will find some of the most passionate parents in the under-10 years old games. They cheer loud and hard. They jeer the refs and even other kids. And they fight with parents of the other squad. In these games, you will rarely see players fighting. But the parents? They get into word wars with opposing parents.
Occasionally, you can see some fisticuffs between them.
One parent in an under-12 years old basketball tournament stormed the opposing team’s coach after his son’s team lost a game and accused the coach of fielding in over-aged players. Another parent attacked a referee for slapping a foul on his son during a crucial play.
If you can’t control your emotions, just ask the other parents to “tweet” what is transpiring during the game.
A little bit of each of the five types can be healthy. Just don’t overdo it.
Getting too involved in your kids’ game usually makes him uncomfortable.
You can be supportive, give advices, encourage, even sometimes lend a hand to your child, or make a pitch for him. But everything in moderation. More importantly, try to relax and enjoy.
After all, it’s just a game.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.