Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Posts Tagged ‘sports parents

“Why Chinese mothers are superior” sounds like a lot of sports parents

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Burning up the mommy blogs and parenting sites is a Wall Street Journal piece by Amy Chua called “Why Chinese mothers are superior.” I had to admit they were, at least by the description she gives, because the night before I read the piece my 11-year-old daughter had a sleepover.

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

I think you could sub “baseball” or “volleyball” for “piano” and “violin,” and make whatever substitutions are necessary to turn a Chinese mother into a sports parent — or any parent so obsessive about their child’s success that they are strict beyond belief, lest anything take anyone’s eyes off the prize.

I think you can also find justification given by the intense sport parent in this passage from Chua’s piece:

What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.

On some level, she probably is right. A child usually is not going to play piano for hours a day, or hit the batting cage for hours a day, or do whatever for hours a day that does not involve some level of enjoyment — unless they’ve done it for so long, and they’ve gotten so good at it, that they respond to the praise they’re getting for doing it so well.

Alas, being the “Chinese mother” is a tricky strategy. For every Ichiro Suzuki that seems to respond well and thrive to the parental-obsessive treatment, there is an Andre Agassi who does well but resents his father, or a Todd Marinovich who advances to the highest level and falls apart, or skads of others kids we never hear of who just burn out. And I’m not talking just sports. Unfortunately, as a parent, we never know whether we’ve pushed too hard or not enough until it’s too late to undo the damage — and the guilt you might feel as a result.

Chua details a confrontation she had with her 7-year-old daughter over trouble she had playing a certain piece on a piano, a fight that escalated into screaming fits (by the daughter) and threats of eternal punishment and withholding water until she learned to play the piece (by the mother). At one point, when Chua’s husband (who is not Chinese) tries to step in, she responds:

“Oh no, not this,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Everyone is special in their special own way,” I mimicked sarcastically. “Even losers are special in their own special way. Well don’t worry, you don’t have to lift a finger. I’m willing to put in as long as it takes, and I’m happy to be the one hated. And you can be the one they adore because you make them pancakes and take them to Yankees games.”

I’m amazed he can take them to Yankees games. He must sneak them out.

Anyway, the 7-year-old learns to play the piece, she’s joyful she can, she loves her mother, dumb-ass dad admits she’s right, and all is well.

There are all these new books out there portraying Asian mothers as scheming, callous, overdriven people indifferent to their kids’ true interests. For their part, many Chinese secretly believe that they care more about their children and are willing to sacrifice much more for them than Westerners, who seem perfectly content to let their children turn out badly. I think it’s a misunderstanding on both sides. All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. The Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that.

Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.

Unlike many who have commented on Chua’s piece, the fault I find is not in her individual parenting methods. They’re her kids, and that’s her business. I don’t doubt that she loves her kids and wants the best for them — and I don’t doubt that either from sports parents who also might seem overbearing on first, second, third and fourth looks.

But I do find fault with this either-or at the end of her piece. To me, good parenting combines the best of both the “Western” and “Chinese” scenarios she lays out. You can encourage your kids to pursue their passions while also reminding them that many others are pursuing the same passion, and showing them what they have to do to make their passion into a viable future, thus providing a nuturing environment AND giving them work habits and inner confidence no one can ever take away.

Now, I need to step away to have my kids turn off their video games and go to bed.

Written by rkcookjr

January 9, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Suzy Kolber, I wanna kiss you for making this video

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…Though Joe Namath says he doesn’t care about the youth sports parents’ strug-a-lin’.

Kolber and ESPN Radio morning jock/sports parent Mike Golic are co-hosting a freshly produced video, put out by the Connecticut Association of Athletic Directors, meant for coaches to use during parents’ meetings. It’s meant to show parents how not to be such fucking assholes.

The presence of the two ESPN personalities lends an air of authority and professionalism to a video that otherwise looks like it should have an intro from Troy McClure. But I’m stunned that Golic, the suddenly ubiquitous pitchman, didn’t break out some ad copy, or at least explain how he can get away with endorsing high-fat food and a workout plan at the same time.

Written by rkcookjr

October 25, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Calgary tells hockey parents: learn respect, or your kid doesn’t play

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How do you weed out the jerkbag parents that make life hell for their kids, your kids, their coaches, yourself, the vending machine filler, the skate sharpener, the old lady who has trouble opening the arena door, and the Zamboni driver? Hockey Calgary, which runs youth hockey in Calgary (just in case you thought it was Edmonton), figures it’s found a way: force parents to sit through a class on how not to be jerkbags. If they don’t do it, their kid doesn’t get to play — at any level from Timbits to Junior B.

Waiting for their parents to finish the course so they can get on the ice.

I am totally for this program. It should seem bloody obvious how not to be a jerkbag, and it might seem unfair to good parents that they have to sit through the hour-long online course.

However, I think setting up a mandatory class in respect communicates to parents sends the signal that you’re not going to take any shit. At the least, it sets clear rules and boundaries for behavior, and the consequences for not following them. With a mandatory program, no parents can say they weren’t warned.

Not that it should discourage parents from speaking up, but the point of the exercise appears to be making sure that when conflicts do come, they are handled in a respectful manner. And if somebody in the stands who may or may have taken the course (uncles, friends, future posse members aren’t required to do so), parents have cover to tell them to, respectfully, shut the fuck up.

Hockey Calgary president Perry Cavanagh said 11,190 hockey players had at least one parent complete the Respect in Sports course by the Oct. 15 deadline, while another 230 players had no parent do so. Cavanagh isn’t being draconian about it. He told the Globe in Mail in Toronto that in some cases there were “communication issues,” such as Junior B players living away from home who needed their distant parents to sign off. (Junior B is for 16-year-olds and up, and often means living away from home to play with the right team.)

From the Globe and Mail:

“Have I had calls from people saying they weren’t going to take the program? Yes, in words I won’t repeat,” Cavanagh said. “It’s a small number and we don’t have a goal to change that 1 per cent. Our goal is not to tolerate them any more. [The RIS program] is not a panacea, but it is a first step to change a societal trend that goes against the values we feel are important.”

In other words, go pound sand, jerkbags. And Cavanagh means that most respectfully.

Written by rkcookjr

October 19, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Mother uses stun gun to zap son’s football coach

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From the Times-Union in Jacksonville, Fla:

A Pop Warner football coach was zapped with a stun gun Tuesday night during an argument with a parent at Sandalwood High School, Jacksonville police said.

Now 43-year-old Roxine Cornela Cobb of the 700 block of Oaks Plantation Drive in Arlington has been arrested on charges of battery and discharging a weapon on school grounds, according to the police report.

Robert Medley II told police he had argued with the woman and her son who plays on his football team Monday night. The confrontation resumed about 6:15 p.m. the next day when the woman walked up to Medley and zapped him in the chest with the stun gun, the arrest report said.

Medley, 41, said he slapped the stun gun out of her hand and the argument ended as police arrived. Cobb told police she didn’t think she actually zapped him.

Two witnesses confirmed the coach’s account, police said.

Pressed for further comment about how he felt about this turn of events, the coach said: “Shocked.”

Written by rkcookjr

October 15, 2010 at 4:39 pm

My 7-year-old has announced his retirement from baseball

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I was out with my 7-year-old son, walking the family Maltese dogs — because there is nothing  more male-bonding-looking than a boy and his son walking these:

So as we are walking, my 7-year-old asks me if baseball signups are coming up soon. I said, yes, probably in a couple of weeks. And I ask him why he’s asking. Because, he said, he doesn’t want to play baseball this year.

I was a bit shocked by this news. I managed Ryan’s team the two years he played, and he seemed very enthusiastic about baseball. He had just mentioned to my wife the other day how he hoped he would be a Phillie again, as he was his first two years:

Given that I write and hear all the time about kids quitting because they had a lousy experience in the sport, I was concerned that my youngest son, once enthused with baseball, no longer had an interest in it. And given that I was his manager, I hoped it wasn’t because of something I did.

So I probed.

“Did something happen last year to make you not like baseball?”

“No?”

“Was it something I did? Because you can tell me if it was.”

“I just don’t want to play it anymore.” (You can see his body stiffening.)

“But why not?”

“I just don’t.” (At this point I’m being as annoying as a 7-year-old.)

“OK, you don’t have to play if you don’t want to.”

“OK, well, maybe I will.”

“No, Ryan, you don’t have to.”

We were heading in a direction in which I would be ordering him not to play if Ryan seemed like he was only playing to make me happy. Because, believe me, with two daughters playing softball in the spring, having one fewer child playing baseball would make my wife and I very, very happy. My 13-year-old son stopped playing baseball after age 9, and I must say, neither he nor we miss it.

Not that I wanted Ryan to quit to make our spring weekdays easier. And I was still feeling guilty. So I asked, “Is there something else you’d rather do?”

“I’d rather do bowling and soccer” — sports he plays now — “and maybe a play, or a technology club. Because I want to be a video game designer.” Like how other kids dream of playing in Major League Baseball, Ryan dreams of being a video game designer. Knowing Japan’s prominence in the video game world, Ryan is joining his school’s Japanese club to learn the language and customs, about 15-25 years before he takes in his first big meeting in Tokyo.

It was a great conversation, especially because my guilty conscience was soothed. (Whew.) My wife and I have tried to make it clear to our four children that we do not mind spending the time and money on something if they enjoy it. But if they don’t enjoy it, we are more than ready to let them quit (at least once the activity is over). I’ll be honest — having four kids, ages 5 to 13, in various activities means we are ready to throw one over the side at any time. But more importantly, there are enough activities out there that it’s not like it’s baseball, or sit at home.

Ryan is fortunate, too, that he’s the third child in this process for us. My oldest son has tried about every sport available, but his interests right now are centered on theater, music, and joining the Marines. My oldest daughter, age 11, looked to have a starring career in softball, but she learned over the summer that she while she enjoys house league she didn’t care for travel ball, and that in her Animal Planet-mainlining heart of hearts she still like horseback riding lessons best. (Horseback riding lessons definitely test our notion that we will gladly pay for an activity if the kid likes it.)

Maybe Ryan will decide after spring 2011 that he wants to go back to baseball, but I’ve learned with my kids that once they’re done with an activity, they’re usually done for good. I feel confident calling his move a retirement, and not just him putting his baseball career on hiatus. Either way, I’m glad Ryan told me that he would rather not play baseball, before he — and we — made another heavy commitment to it. And that he doesn’t mind being seen with his dad, out walking Paris Hilton’s dogs.

Parents search for dislike button after coach’s Facebook rants

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Fellow coaches: I know we all have complaints from time to time about the parents of the children we lead. Complaints like, they’re fucking asshole making our lives hellish and shorter, and filling us with existential dread as we watch their poor offspring take their first steps toward a future appearance on Dr. Phil.

But, shit, most of us are smart enough to limit our complaints to ourselves, our spouses, or our little-read blogs. Most of us are smart enough not to jump onto whatever social media site is handing to broadcast our pain.

Jason Windsor, recently resigned soccer coach at Royal Oak (Mich.), is not most of us. From the Royal Oak Tribune:

Just a few weeks into the season, Jason Windsor suddenly resigned his position as varsity soccer coach at Royal Oak High School following complaints by parents about his Facebook postings.

Windsor resigned Monday [Oct. 4] because of schedule conflicts [he coaches other travel teams], according to Superintendent Thomas Moline. However, a copy of the coach’s Facebook page indicates there was a conflict between him and some parents, too.

Last week parents confronted school officials about the coach using the social networking site to threaten to penalize players if parents crossed him. Windsor contends his account was hacked and he didn’t make the comments in question.

One Facebook posting said: “3 words my varsity soccer parents will get used to this week. BENCH, JV, CUT. You will all be taught a lesson you sh– stirring pri—!!!!!!!”

In other posts, he is accused of dropping F-bombs and wrote “(certain) Parents are the worst part of kid’s sports” and “great set of results on the field today! shame certain soccer moms make soccer so negative.”

I presume WIndsor, or that mysterious band of hackers, didn’t type hyphens to play what Sports Illustrated’s Steve Rushin once referred to as “obscene hangman.”

Written by rkcookjr

October 6, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Blockbuster youth sports series in newspaper rings true to Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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The opening story of the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch’s big, gimme-a-Pulitzer-Prize series on youth sports is headlined, “Children may be vulnerable in $5 billion youth-sports industry.” May?

All you have to do is spend a little time with this here blog to see how youth sports victimizes kids with molestation, hazing, injury, balls thrown violently to the head and complicated relationships with parents that will keep them in therapy for years. All in the name of getting one of those extremely elusive college scholarships and an even more extremely elusive pro career, all while holding up the sagging economy through recession-proof activities.

Or you could read the Dispatch’s series, a well-reported look pretty much along the same lines, except that the newspaper’s writers aren’t allowed to type “fuck.” Well, they can type it, but it probably won’t get past the fucking copy desk. Fuckers.

To me, the most interesting part of the series is the poll of more than 1,000 central Ohio youths about various aspects of their youth sports experience. For example:

– 315 said they started youth sports at age 5 or younger. Another 445 said they started between ages 6 and 9. I’m going to guess of those 445, they were a lot closer to 6 than 9.

As I typed that previous sentence, this song popped into my head. Kids, let your freak flag fly!

– For the most part, kids appear to play non-school sports because they want to, with many reporting no pressure to play because of a dream of scholarships or making the high school varsity. Only 50 said they got a lot of pressure from parents, while 799 said there was little or none. However, change the question from “parents” to “father,” and I suspect the responses change somewhat.

– 571 said their coaches were fun and improved their game. Only 60 said their coach only wanted to win, or yelled a lot. Is Central Ohio the repository of all the best youth coaches? Really?

– Another 571 (the same kids?) said their parents were supportive or enjoyable at their sporting events. Another 271 said parents were embarrassing or put too much pressure on them. Apparently there are parents, given the low rate of pressure to play, who are all nice and home, but become raging lunatics once the whistle blows.

Actually, the poll, unless the children are suffering some sort of travel team Stockholm Syndrome, seems to reveal that even as we absorb all these stories about the nuttiness of youth sports, in most cases everyone — especially the kids themselves — are keeping their wits and perspective about them. If that’s the case, what I am going to write about? You mean kids really only may be vulnerable? Fuck.

Written by rkcookjr

September 15, 2010 at 11:14 pm

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