My oldest son plays 5th grade competitive basketball. He loves the basketball. Loves it. And if I’m being honest, I really do love it too. I have played. I grew up playing basketball. I grew up watching Hoosiers. For heaven sake’s I live in Indiana. It’s basically in my blood.
At a recent game, we were playing at a sports complex that is not my favorite place to watch basketball. It always feels hectic because there are whistles blowing all the time. Kids running everywhere (mostly unsupervised). It is so loud that sometimes I can’t even think straight. But it is a good place for him to play competitive basketball. So I bring my little cushion bleacher seat and I wait for the game to start.
Complaints, with fuel –> turns toxic
On this particular game, as I am waiting, I noticed some people to my left who are complaining about a variety of things. As the game got started and the intensity of the game increased, those complaints were then targeted toward my son and his teammates. The parents from the other team were complaining about calls that were or were not being made by the referee. They would yell at the kids who were playing about their performance or lack of performance. In short, those complaints combined with a seemingly over active and negative referee, the whole game felt toxic. Parents were yelling at other parents. Sarcastic and snarky laughter to fuel the frustration of other parents. It was all-around ugly.
Let me say, I have been in the stands at MANY sporting events. And I have heard everything from minor offensive comments to outright racial slurs. And today was certainly not the worst I have seen. But I was saddened to remember that these LITTLE BOYS are in 5th grade. Some of them 4th grade. We are talking about 9 year olds and 10 year olds whose little brains and bodies have so much growing to do. So much developing.
The environment is prime for modeling
I was struck by how hard it must be to play in this kind of environment. My belly was nauseous with stress and anxiety about the whole thing. I just kept thinking how hard it must be for them to wrap their heads around how they should actually behave when they are being modeled such poor behavior. From grownups on the sidelines.
When I got in the car after the game with my son and I asked him how he thought he did, he said he thought he played well. And he did. He was awesome and amazing and played his very best the whole game. I could see his energy. I saw how hard he worked. And I was proud of him. And I can only hope that when he sees me in the stands showing him encouragement and not criticism, that he is also proud of me.
Y’all. We need to be better. If you struggle with being critical on the sidelines – or saying negative things about ANY child (on your team or the opposing), remember we want to model that pride for every child.
Step in to the charge
And I have certainly had my moments of frustration with my kid’s performance on the court (see my post later this month about their performance not being a reflection of us!!). And I know I have said things in the stands that my kid would not be proud of. And as we all move toward being better together, for kids, I hope I can continue to make him proud of me in the stands giving encouragement, not criticism.