Emergency room physician and author Dr. Louis M. Profeta wrote about some of the interactions he had experienced with parents in the ER. “When I inform you as a parent that your child has just ruptured their ACL ligament or Achilles tendon,” he said, “if the next question out of your mouth is, ‘How long until he or she will be able to play?’ you have a serious problem.”
The examples escalated from there. In case after case, parents put the sports performance above their kids’ health and wellbeing — and in some cases above the law as well.
“Every ER doctor in America sees this,” says Dr. Profeta. “How did we get here? How did we go from spending our family times in parks and picnics, at movies and relatives houses to travel baseball and cheerleading competitions? When did we go from being supportive to being subtly abusive?”
If your kids are in sports and you are one of the millions of parents who drive them to their practices, tournaments, and games, you know there’s a fair amount of sports parent crazy out there.
If you’re not part of it, you’ve certainly seen it.
Dr. Profeta suggests that the cause is fear. As parents, we worry that our kids will be failures. So we value winning above all else. We may even give up the closeness of normal family relationships to be our kids’ cheerleaders, coaches, and managers instead of their parents.
But it can also be about parental ambition. Half of moms in a recent study said they were more ambitious for their kids than for themselves. 59% said they felt regret for having been less ambitious in their own lives than they now think they should have been and 20% said they would be embarrassed if they were recognized as ambitious. And that’s just the moms.
Add fear of failure to a desire for vicarious success, and you have a potent cocktail of emotion.
Supporting your kids is great. Sports are great. When your kids’ sports are a healthy part of your family life and a healthy part of your kids’ lives, they can provide physical fitness, bonding time, and positive growth. When your involvment gets out of hand, it can destroy relationships and set kids up to fail. It’s worth taking a close look at yourself, your kids, your family, and how sports enrich or endanger your family dynamic.
Imagine yourself in the ER hearing that your kid will be fine — but not in time for the next game. Visualize the interaction and your response to the news. Are you more concerned about your kid, yourself, or the game?
Your answer may tell you something you need to pay attention to.