Sports Moms On The Ropes?


April 13, 2012 by David Gillaspie

Not This One (posted on

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A young athlete’s parents try to make things better in their family, in their community. Not much of a story, right? That’s what parents are supposed to do.

Active parents open their lives to their kids’ schools. They work the role of youth support as seriously as a combat commander works his battle plan.

It’s not a smooth ride. If you overhear a situation involving ‘those’ kind of parents, it’s easy to jump to well-hashed stereotypes.

Words like ‘kook’ and ‘nutty’ float out there, followed by a weary smile that says, ‘yes, of course, we all know one, or three.’ You hear about, “someone with too much time on their hands,” and ” they’re living through their children.”

Sit across from one of those parents and hear their story. It’s not kooky or nutty. It speaks to a larger truth.

In a world of Sandusky and Fine, parent involvement in their kid’s life solves problems. The window of vulnerability is smaller. Add the consenting behavior of lady’s men like Pitino and Petrino and the coach pile grows. Tell yourself they all live in rarefied air none of us mortals could hope to comprehend.

Slam a tired stereotype on Kentucky or Arkansas if you must, but neither P comes from anywhere near Louisville or Fayetteville.  Those guys, adults in charge of young lives and lots of money, join the alleged child molesters as second-tier poster boys for negative coaching role models.

While big time college basketball and football aren’t the only sports that draw misguided power-freaks and control-geeks, they do get the most attention.

Take it down a few notches to a high school environment with active parents on the scene, parents engaged in fund-raising, attending school events, the sort of parents who participate in the community and make it look like fun. Their kids ought to get a fair shake if they watch their step, or until communication breaks down.

Education is an industry based on preparing the young to watch their step. Moms and dads can only do much, unless home-school is in the future. At least that’s the theory. Teach kids to look both ways before they cross the street and not to play with fire, but leave the rest of the job to the professionals.

With an education budget hovering around three billion a year, you expect the professionals to be professional. Like the rest of us looking for better ways of doing things, some educators see professional behavior through a different lens.

Concerned sports moms who show up at an appointed time to discuss a problem know at the very least they’re dealing with someone who has spent years learning the difference between a Converger and a Diverger, an Assimilator and an Accomodater, as described by David Kolb (and wiki.)

These are people with advanced degrees, professionals who serve to inform.

If sports moms can’t get a plan to work with as clear as Lewis and Clark’s map of the west, they move up the chain of command. They add the failed meeting to their discussion list.

They sit in an office with a principal, a vice-principal, and an athletic director, professionals with decades of combined experience to reflect on. When asked to define words like a second grader in a tiny desk instead of finding common ground in a productive discussion, sports moms move up to the district superintendent.

From the district office, to the Oregon School Activities Association, to the Oregon Educational Association, sports moms want answers. From the Oregon Department of Education to the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission, they keep looking.

Next stop, U.S. Department of Education. When sports moms start trading emails with this office, things start rolling down hill, a slow roller gathering speed.

Sports moms hold a special place in the constellation of parenting stars. They know sports, they’ve played sports, they’ve coached teams. The parents who’ve been through that wringer know the drill. They know how hard it can be, the ups and downs. At the same time, they know when it doesn’t have to be so hard.

They share their insights, right or wrong. The informed educator helps sports moms understand their problems at the ground level. Failing that, it goes up the chain of command, which means up the pay scale. This affects the educational budget. With shortfalls and predicted cuts looming on the horizon, the education industry can’t afford communication breakdowns.

Because responsible people seek to promote the best educational experience for young people, experts are often called in. A word from Dr. Alan Goldberg to all educators and sports parents to reflect on while their kids compete:

Deal with your athletes the way that you would like to be dealt with. Respect them and they will end up respecting you. If they respect you, they will be able to learn from you and will go to the ends of the earth to perform for you. Humiliate and/or demean them on a regular basis and ultimately they will end up fearing you and hating the sport.”

For the good of the team, for all sports, please heed Dr. Goldberg’s words. To all coaches and administrators, please listen to sports moms. They are the strongest force in sports.


2 thoughts on “Sports Moms On The Ropes?

  1. lindajane1324 says:

    My opinion …High School sports should be such a memorable event. This is not a time for big emotional negative challenges in any child’s life because of a sport. I don’t think that HS coaches are getting paid the big bucks by our tax-payer dollars to take our children emotionally down. Positive motivation actually motivates. Some educator/coaches can make or break a kid. Kids in sports should grow and develop by postive mentors only! Kids have the rest of their lives to deal with the hard stuff and mean people. Bobby Knight’s style is a thing of the past, and his abuse has become a cycle for some, so let’s move into the future together to promote Positive Coaching!

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Educators in the classroom and the playing fields have gone through so much training to get where they are. When some fall back on instincts developed at a time of the ‘beat down for the sake of the child’ was the norm, it turns adversarial. Respect the game and the players. Short of that, who benefits from the blame-game style of coaching?

      My guess is a future therapist.

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