Long Ago In a Galaxy Far, Far Away...
Parents dropped their kids off at practice or class.
There was one coach or teacher of that practice or class.
All kids on the team or in the class were taught equally by the coach or teacher.
When practice was over a parent picked you up and you went home for dinner and to do homework and watch a little television before bed.
Parents drive their kids to their extra-curricular activities and the parents stay.
Stay to watch.
The other kids.
Suddenly teams have 10 coaches because 9 of them are Dads that refuse to leave.
These Dads don't coach other kids. Well at least not in a helpful way. They coach AGAINST other players. But their focus is predominantly on their sons.
Once upon a time parents all sat together at their children's events and they cheered the entire team on.
But now - parents sit in their separate little huddles. Cheering on their child. Routing against another teammate. Talking about the other children and parents.
Bad mouthing the coach.
Blaming the teacher.
Worried that someone has an unfair advantage over their kid.
Keeping track of what they feel is right and wrong.
Arguing with whoever they have to to get their way for their child.
As a teacher of dance, I taught all of the kids in my class equally. I worked hard to help them. Encourage them. I doted on them equally. I cheered for those children. I hugged them after their victories and I hugged them after their losses. I did not have favorites. I wanted all of them to have a good experience while giving them the best training that I could.
Later I would learn that my child was gossiped and complained about. She felt bullied. By parents. Not the children. By the adults. Children are very perceptive. They hear and see more than you think.
My husband has coached for 10 years. He coached everyone in the room. Not just his three sons. He worked hard to create love of the sport with them. Everyone on the team deserved his time, attention and devotion.
This year, he stepped down as Head Coach due to the illness and eventual death of his mother. On any given day that you show up to a practice now, you will find kids in the room working with their Dads like personal trainers.
These Dads have bullied my sons. Mocked them. Routed against them. Spoken in sarcastic tones and beat them down. After all of the years that my husband coached their boys...they did not look after mine.
My husband arrived to pick up my son from a practice last month. When he walked in, he was shocked to find that he had been paired with another wrestler nearly 50 pounds heavier than him. My husband could not believe his eyes. He immediately spoke to the "Dad Coaches" that were there. He let them know how upset he was that had been allowed let alone encouraged. One of them agreed wholeheartedly with the danger involved. He said he tried to speak up but it was up to the other "Dad Coach" that stood there and pretended that he had no idea what the issue was. These "Dad Coaches" don't allow their own children to partner with my son who is within 10 pounds of their children. But not only did he pair my son inappropriately, he then coached the heavier kid against my son. It would seem that he wanted my son to be injured. That should seem a crazy thing to think, right? Why would an adult purposefully want my child to be in a position that could result in physical harm?
I had a mother approach me recently and she shared her story.
The story about how her son was going to quit wrestling because he didn't have his Dad in the room with him. He felt ignored. She told me that he hated practice. She told me that he said the only thing he had learned this year, he had learned from my son who took the effort and patience to teach him.
I was saddened by this. This boy and his family had left the country for a couple of years. While away, he had not wrestled on a formal team. He had lived in Iraq. He taught his neighborhood "friends", the Kurds, what he had learned about the sport of wrestling. He had taken his love of the sport across the world and managed to find a way to incorporate it into his life. He would wrestle in the streets with the Kurdish boys.
When his family returned home after their hiatus, he was more than eager to get back to our team. However, shortly after returning, he learned that things had changed in his absence. My husband was no longer the head coach. The wrestling room was now filled with Dads mostly worried about coaching their own individual sons. He became discouraged quickly.
I spoke with my son and asked him to talk to this boy and try to encourage him. We knew that he would be a nice wrestler for the high school team next year if we could just get him through this season. My husband asked the boy's mother if our son had talked to him and she said that he had. She felt that it had encouraged her son and was grateful for our effort and compassion. It was important to us that this boy not lose interest in the sport simply because he had become a victim of poor coaching techniques by helicopter Dads.
A couple of weeks later we were attending a team wrestling match. That same mother approached one of the "Dad Coaches". In fact, it was the same Dad that had set my son up in a dangerous situation. The schedule for the day's match had been changed. She questioned how long we would be waiting to begin our match - concerned about other obligations that awaited them. She was met with a very unkind response.
I saw the conversation taking place from a distance. From my position, she seemed upset and the "Dad Coach" was not being helpful.
After seeing the mother walk away distressed, my husband approached the "Dad Coach". He asked him what had happened. The "Dad Coach" said she was complaining so he told her that maybe this wasn't the sport for her son and that maybe he should find another sport. Another "Dad Coach" standing nearby said, "You didn't really go there, did you?" He responded, "Sure I did. What do I care?"
My husband was disappointed. I was disgusted.
The next week we had a wrestling tournament. The night before my husband received an email from that mother stating that her son would not be wrestling the next day. No further explanation.
I certainly hope that wrestler returns next year and gives high school wrestling a shot. It would be awful to think that a child who had taken his love of a sport across the world with him, had quit due to an overzealous parent that masqueraded as a coach.
There is a difference between someone who is there to teach and coach because they have love of the sport, the team and all of the kids and someone who is there for their own kid and nothing more.
In the pursuit of being over involved in their own child's life - someone else's child became a casualty.
Let the coaches coach.
Let the teachers teach.
Let the kids play.
Let the parents enjoy the game.
Last I checked - it was supposed to be for fun...