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Being a Sports Dad

by Alex Knapp on 29 July 2009


It is not easy being the father of a child that participates in a sport.  One aspect of being a man is that we like to compare ourselves to other men.  Who has the better car, house, newest toy, etc.  Manufacturers of digital cameras have been exploiting this for years now.

“How may megapixels does your camera have?”


“Oh, mine only has 12.”

The dirty little secret is that you don’t need 15 or 12 megapixels for most pictures.  Are you going to blow the picture up to fit on the side of the building?  No?  Then 5 or 6 is more than sufficient.  It’s almost like comparing penis size.

And even when it comes to our kids we can fall into this same trap.  Is my son the fastest, the smartest, etc.  And when you have a kid in a sport where you can see them competing directly against other children it can bring out the worst in a parent.  I know, I’ve been there, and I’ve even crossed that line on occasion.

My son swims, and yes he’s good at it.  Not great, but good.  He really likes his friends on the team and has a good time at swim meets, practice and other team activities.  He will not be in the Olympics, he might get a scholarship.  Nor is he inclined to make the kinds of sacrifices it takes to get to the level to go to the Olympic trials.

Still, when he makes a mistake there is the urge to tell him what he did wrong.  Point out how he could have done better.  But that isn’t what a parent is supposed to do.  That is his coach’s job.  The coach is going to point out what he did wrong and what he did right, what to work on in the future in practice.  And if it was a dumb mistake the coach will likely let his displeasure be known.  He doesn’t need to hear it from me.

It’s hard, but now when he gets out of the water he’ll ask me his time.  He’ll ask if he made a time cut for a higher level meet (Age Group Championships, Junior Olympics, etc.).  But that’s it.  I try not to criticize, and I try to be supportive,

“Next time you’ll get that J.O. cut. Hey, you dropped almost an entire second!”  Then, “Go talk to your coach I’m gonna go get a soda and meet you back at the easy-up.”

Because if you get too into it, then you run the risk of turning the kid off from the sport and he’ll quit.  Now, go back to the part I noted earlier:  he really likes his friends on the team and has a good time at swim meets, practice and other team activities.  That is the important part and one that the sport’s dad can too easily forget.  Yeah it is great when your son is fast, when he goes to the “big” meets, and when other parents are impressed.  But he certainly can’t do any of that if he quits because Dad made it no fun to play the sport.

About Alex Knapp

Alex has been published in the Kansas City Star, TCS Daily, and Comic Book Resources. He’s been blogging at Heretical Ideas since October, 2001 and at Outside the Beltway since June 2006. He also reviews cigars at Cigar Jack's Cigar News and Reviews.

{ 1 comment }

1 jsallison 3 August 2009 at 21:22

Applies to grandpa, too. I try to limit my questions to, ‘Did you try your best? Did you have fun?’ and leave it at that.

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