Monday, March 21, 2011

Cheering from the Cheap Seats: It All Depends on Where You're Sitting

The Youngest Boy’s hockey team played three games this past weekend and won two of them. During the Friday night game, his team won 5-3. Even when his crew was up 5-2 and seemed in command of the game, we parents in the stands were still cheering aggressively, encouraging the kiddos to chase down every puck, to skate as fast as they could and not to stop playing hard.

To the parents for the opposing team, our entreaties might’ve seemed like overkill. They might’ve wanted us to stop cheering so loudly and to cease urging our players to act like the game was on the line. But then they wouldn’t understand the context which would explain all our enthusiasm. Our children’s team has only enjoyed a precious handful of victories over this long, long, oh so long hockey season. So when our young players had a chance to actually come away with the W for a change, we really wanted them to get it.

I had the opposite experience during many of The Girl’s basketball games this winter. During the regular season, her travel basketball team went undefeated, beating many teams by double digits. In those cases, as the point differential grew, we parents dialed back our cheering to polite applause when someone scored. At times, even polite applause seemed like it was too much, as though we were rubbing it in somehow, so we wound up not exhibiting much of an outward reaction to what was transpiring on the court. No one wants to make the players on the other team feel badly or to humiliate them. They’re just kids after all. But from a spectator’s perspective, having to sit on my hands while watching my daughter’s team and not being able to root for her wasn’t much fun.

Years ago, The Eldest Boy’s soccer team was absolutely demolished by another team. The opposing team obliterated my son’s team from beginning to end of the game. During the entire time, that team’s coach bellowed from the sidelines, at almost a non-stop clip, chastising his boys to go after everything, shouted when the boys made an error and urged them to “Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!” Never once, when there was no earthly possibility that his team would lose, did he rein in his shouting which had a demoralizing effect on the players on my son’s team. I got angry that the guy just wouldn’t shut up and, seeing that I was standing not far from him, I executed a passive aggressive move and loudly muttered that maybe he could tone down all the yelling given the score. The coach gave me a glare but piped down after that.

It’s really challenging to keep your perspective when you’re the parent of a youth athlete and you're sitting in the stands. Unlike with professional athletes (who are paid) and, to some extent, college athletes (many of whom get scholarships), cheering loudly when your kid’s team is crushing another team is considered bad form. However in some cases, when your kid’s team hasn’t won many contests, you tend not to want to hold back.

Since I’ve been on multiple sides of this issue, I tend to try to cut other parents some slack when it comes to how they’re cheering for their kids . . . except when their team is wiping the floor with my kid’s team. In that case, if they keep yelling when their kids’ team is up by an obscene amount of points, baskets, runs, etc. it’s likely that some ticked off parents of kids on the other team (like me) will snap at them to try to remind them that all the players are just children.

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