Now, I have seen it all. Before my daughters recent orchestra recital, I was patiently waiting for the doors to open. I like to get their early, so I can tailgate in the parking lot with other parents before getting a good spot to watch the mad rush for seats when the doors open 20 minutes before the initial warm-up. Hey, our orchestra is ranked, and we have a talented group of musicians. There are some future all-america candidates plucking and strumming on our home stage. I think for district music contest, I might be able to get some of the dads to paint big green letters on their chests to show our school spirit.
On this particular night, my tailgate was not in its normal location. I was late arriving due to a middle school track meet, so I was by “that” group of parents. You know who I am talking about. Their kids are the “best” and they are constantly complaining about things. As I fired up my grill and got some cello-shaped burgers sizzling for the other guys who would be joining me, I overheard two mothers in a heated discussion about the orchestra.
“I don’t know what the director is thinking,” one mother huffed. “Seriously, my daughter plays much better than the first, second, and third chair viola.”
“I know,” the other mom nodded. “It’s the same thing in the violin section. My daughter is obviously better but she doesn’t get the solo. I mean, it’s ridiculous. What is that director thinking?”
I am sure you have all dealt with this at your own orchestra, band, and choir tailgate parties. Those parents who aren’t at the rehearsal and aren’t at the practice sessions that think they know who should be where during the performance. Lately, I have been hearing more and more of this. It is like a disease spreading through a third world country.
The bad mouthing even continues during the performances. How many times have you heard things like, “I can’t believe the director keeps that girl as the first chair, did you see that vibrato?” or “That base player must not even get lessons, did you hear those notes?” or “His plucking is killing the chamber group, why doesn’t the director get him out of there?”
It has gotten to the point of ridiculous to hear these things at a concert. I have even seen parents ripping their child after a performance, rehashing each note on the way home or parents shouting down the director because their daughter didn’t get the solo over another performer.
I know what you are thinking… Why don’t I take my kid out of orchestra? The parents of my daughter’s school are crazy. What is wrong with people? Why would I allow this to happen?
Yeah, I am not talking about orchestra am I?
This is the sports world! This is what parents do to their coaches, teams, kids when it comes to athletics. It starts when the teams first get competitive, and the kids are young. Too many parents think they know because they watch the performance or even sit at a practice. I am hear to tell you that most parents don’t have a freaking clue. The older your child is, the more they know and the less informed you are as a parent.
There are four basic roles: coaches coach, players play, officials officiate, and spectators spectate. That’s you, parents; you are the spectators, so cheer when it’s appropriate, be proud of your kid, and let the coaches coach, the players play, and the officials officiate. The biggest problem in youth sports are looking back at parent when they look in the mirror. Quit being part of the problem.
Here are 3 things you can do to make the experience for your athletes better.
1. Wait 24 hours before contacting the coach about something that bothers you. Too many parents get upset without all the facts and make a rash decision to say something right away. Coaches are finishing up a game, worked up because coaching is intense, and then a parent drops an unexpected bomb. Coaches get defensive and the outcome will not be favorable for anyone. I have been there as a coach, and it is hard to hold my tongue with that parent.
2. Make your athlete talk to the coach if something bothered them. Our athletes need to practice talking to people in authority in a respectful but sincere way. It is a great life skill to be able to approach your boss appropriately. In addition, players know what goes on in practice. They know their own level of effort. Parents, your kids don’t tell you the whole story when it comes to the team. In fact, most of you don’t know as much about the sport as your kid does, let alone what was said in the team meeting, on the practice field, in the dugout, on the sideline, etc. You don’t have a clue, so make the player be responsible. Then if they didn’t talk to the coach, you can tell them to quit complaining about it. I often find that kids don’t ask the coach because they know the truth. Think about it parents.
3. Don’t ever tear down another player or coach in front of your athlete. Cheer for everyone to do well, regardless of whether your child is playing or not. Most infighting on teams is due to parents talking at home and the players taking it with them to the team. I have seen good kids polluted by parents who don’t know how to keep their mouth shut about something they don’t know much about anyway. Great teams can be strangled by soured parents.
By the way, my daughter rocks the cello in orchestra, hurdles in track, and babysitting on Sunday mornings in the toddler room. I think my tailgating idea will catch on sooner or later at the orchestra concerts once the weather warms up.. Now, where did I put those bow shaped brats.