Sports Parents Are Ruining Childhood

I weep for humanity sometimes.

Recently, spectators at a baseball game near Denver, Colorado started a bleacher-clearing brawl after some of them were unhappy with one of the umpire's calls.

The game in question was a children's baseball game. The players in question were 7 years old. The umpire in question was 13. And the dunderheaded goons who started the fight?

They were the parents.

According to CNN and an embarrassing number of other sources, it started after the umpire, Josh Cordova, Jr., issued a warning to both sides about foul language, after the parents of both teams had previously been arguing. One of the coaches disagreed with the call and got in the boy's face.

You know, the children's baseball coach. Who was teaching 7-year-old children about sportsmanship, teamwork, and discipline.

Other parents started shouting because Cordova hadn't kicked out the potty-mouthed parents, which led to the argument that led to the fight. Either that, or one of them challenged the others to a "Who Can Be The Bigger Jackass?" contest.

Between 15 and 20 men and women stormed the field, and began punching and kicking each other in order to teach their kids that it's uncouth and vulgar to swear in public.

Worried about the message the brawl would send their children, someone used their mobile phone in the manner it should be used: to videotape the entire fight and upload it to the Internet.

The video also showed one man sucker-punching people like a coward when they were looking the other way.

Additionally, two employees for the City of Denver were suspended from their jobs pending an investigation into their involvement in the big fight.

You know, the big fight among parents at the baseball game being played by a bunch of 7-year-olds.

I don't know what's wrong with sports parents. Kids only want their parents to be supportive and proud, not a bunch of knuckle-dragging mouth breathers who don't understand what youth sports is supposed to be teaching.

Too many parents have spent years sucking the fun out of youth sports. They dream that their own kids will turn pro one day, so they push and push and push, year after year, trying to relive their own big-league fantasies through their children.

For most youth sport kids, it starts in a regular league, which leads to travel teams and summer camps. There are travel team tournaments and games every weekend, which means parents are driving to different cities and states just for a couple days, spending a few hundred dollars on hotels, meals, and other nonsense. And while the kids play, the parents just sit and watch their lives pass them by.

All the dreams they had — the art they were going to create, the books they were going to write, the trips they were going to take — they're all put on hold while they shuttle their kids from practice to game to tournament and back home, only to do it all again next week.

And that's just for the 8-year-olds. As the kids get older and keep progressing, the tournaments get bigger, the practices are harder, and the competition is fiercer.

The system keeps feeding the parents' ego: If your kid wants to make the high school team in a few years — which is the only path to a college scholarship — the kids have to play on the travel teams or the coach won't even consider them.

I've known parents who fell for this garbage, putting their kids on all kinds of teams when they were 10 and 12, just in the hopes that their kid might be good enough to play in high school.

All this does is suck the fun out of the game for the kids. When I was growing up in Muncie, Indiana, I played in the city's youth soccer league. We practiced once a week, we played once a week, and that was it. We had fun because our parents didn't have World Cup dreams, and our coaches didn't fancy themselves as coaching's next great geniuses.

I also played baseball with friends each summer. We would throw together impromptu games with whoever was available. No one had to organize it, we didn't need coaches, and we didn't want parents getting involved because we were more than capable of doing it ourselves.

Word of the game would spread through that magical way kids know when something fun is about to happen. We would just show up at the right time, with bats, gloves, and balls. And we would play until it was time to go home again.

There wasn't anyone to yell at us, we did our own umpiring, and there certainly weren't any parents to start brawling if they weren't happy about a call. If two kids got mad, we yelled about it, fought it out, and then we kept playing.

Sport parents have ruined the fun of playing for hundreds of thousands of kids all over the country, passing out orange slices and participation trophies after every game.

The kids just want to have fun, and it's the parents who are ruining it for everyone else. Parents, stay home, let your kids have fun by themselves, and let them be kids for a while longer. If you want to yell at someone, organize your own games, and yell at each other. At least you'll be better armed when another fight breaks out.

Photo credit: Andrea Hamilton (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

My new humor novel, Mackinac Island Nation, is finished and available on Amazon. You can get the Kindle version here or the paperback version here.