Dr. Phil, solving your youth sports problems
Phil McGraw, America’s favorite pop psychologist and Hank Kingsley doppelganger, on his Nov. 4 show asked this musical question: “Whether it’s in school, sports or hobbies, all parents want their children to succeed. But can a competitive spirit go too far?”
And Dr. Phil’s answer was, “No, not really.”
Just kidding! Of course you can go too far! Dr. Phil has an hour (including commercials) to kill!
Given the self-selecting freaks that throw themselves at talk show, it probably wasn’t hard for Dr. Phil’s staff to find bad examples. (Heck, all they would have had to do is read this blog.) Ronda, apparently threatening death for noncompliance, has had her 10-year-old daughter practicing hours on end since age 4 for the hotly contested baton-twirling circuit in order to earn a coveted baton-twirling college scholarship. (Who knew there was a baton-twirling circuit, or that you could get a scholarship?
The Iowa Golden Girl knew. Also, the Golden Girl in this video began twirling at age 3, so joke’s on you, Ronda — you started too late!
To show Ronda religion, Dr. Phil trotted out Dominque Moceanu, who at age 14, as part of the celebrated 1996 U.S. Olympic gymanstics team, became the youngest American gymnast to win a gold medal, a record that can’t be broken because the minimum age for international competition is 16. (Yeah, those Chinese gymnasts in 2008 were 16. Wink wink.)
Moceanu told Ronda how as a girl she started hating the sport she once loved because of the way she was pushed too hard by her parents and coaches at such a young age, to the point that she suffered the horrible fate of winning a gold medal and using it as a springboard for everything she’s done with her life since.
Actually, Monceau didn’t say that last part, but I’m guessing that’s what Ronda heard. Maybe instead of sending out an Olympic champion to tell her mock-horror story, Dr. Phil could have contacted say, True/Slant contributor/former ice skating champion Jennifer Kirk, who could have suggested a true bitter flameout or 10. (Hey, TV isn’t the only place that can shamelessly cross-promote.)
Dr. Phil followed with a skater who got steroid injections from his father (not Mark McGwire) at age 13, but by then his message was clear: pushing too hard and making sports your thing instead of your kid’s thing is bad. Well, clear to everyone but Ronda:
Dr. Phil addresses Ronda, wondering aloud if she’s had a change of heart. “What is most important to you?” he asks. “Would it be more important for your child to love herself, and love her life, and feel loved by you and be a joyful child or win a trophy?
“Now? Not so much the trophy,” Ronda concedes. “I felt like if I didn’t push her, who was going to? How was she going to be the best if I’m not there supporting her and pushing her toward that? I felt like she needed me. She needed me to be there for her, and not to let her quit and not to let her stop practicing, because if she did, what is she going to be — nothing?”
Iowa Golden Girl or bust — that’s the way all the parenting books recommend it.
I’ve never spent much time — well, any — on the Dr. Phil web site, but for each show there’s a little video clip labeled “uncensored.” Wow! Is this where Dr. Phil strips down, swings his million-dollar pecker, and says stuff like: “What the fuckity fuck fuck is that stupid fucking idiot Ronda thinking? Jesus fucking Christ, you dumb turd! And Dominique — holy fucking shit, how did you grow up to be so fucking hot! Shit!”
I quickly discovered it’s not like that. So what does Dr. Phil say instead?
“The whole point here is, look — you can introduce your children to things, you can introduce ’em to a sport, and they might get excited about it first and then lose their energy. Or maybe they’ll get traction, and they’ll decide to be passionate about it. What you’ve gotta do is encourage and provide opportunities. But you can’t run your agenda … they’ll find their place in this world. Show ’em a lot of different things.”
Man, what do you expect from a TV psych–hey now, that’s actually pretty smart.