By Matt Blymier
Editor’s note: Matthew Blymier covers lacrosse for Lancaster newspapers and is a charter panel member and co-director of the PA Media Lacrosse Rankings. This article ran recently in his blog site at http://lancasteronline.com/blogs/laxfacts/
As the lacrosse season approaches I unfortunately turn my thoughts to the parents of these athletes. It’s not a lot of them, not even the majority, but a very small vocal minority that seem to ruin this wonderful sport each year.
I’ve come to the conclusion that this epidemic may ruin this game. I’ve also concluded that these acts from fully functioning adults are for a few reasons. The first is because they are living vicariously through their children and are helicopter parents (always hovering). Secondly they feel entitled (a word that will be brought up often) because they spent x-amount of money on their kid’s sport. Third, they think their child is better than they actually are. Finally, because it’s an affluent sport and they have some money, or a few letters (MD, PHD) at the end of their names, and think they can dictate playing time, press coverage, etc. because they’re in a profession where they do it 24/7.
In the five years that I have covered this sport I have witnessed a laundry list of actions by parents.
There have been, by my count, four coaches that have been run out by parents. All of these coaches had won MULTIPLE league titles. There’s a coach now that’s been on a parent’s hit list for two years. This parent went as far as to go to the school board and ask for this coach to be removed. Luckily the AD at that school took a stand and stood up for his coach. The aforementioned coaches didn’t have that administrative support.
Because this sport is becoming more popular and seeing its athletes succeed beyond high school more unrealistic expectations occur. Some parents seem to think that because John Smith at this school received a scholarship that their precious perfect child will too. Or because a certain school has a number of Division I players and they believe their child is just as good. THEY’RE NOT. It’s not easy to get a lacrosse scholarship and no lacrosse scholarship is a full ride. If you got your child into this sport to get a scholarship, or have their name in the newspaper, than they’re playing for the wrong reason.
I was told by a well-respected coach, in another sport that has similar problems, that winning and players succeeding is a problem and here’s why: Coaches understand god-given ability and realistic expectations and parents don’t. That’s the difference and that’s a problem. Point being: When you win, players succeed. With success come unrealistic expectations from some parents. That’s where the problem begins. 10 years ago this wasn’t an issue because the sport was in its infancy stage. Everyone just wanted to play for fun. Where did that go?
I have received too many emails to count on how my coverage of the sport is unfair and biased. I’ve received emails calling me names, emails calling for my job and emails saying I’m bad at my job. The writers of those emails are obviously hypocritical because they’re writing because they feel their child has been slighted. They have tunnel vision. They have a horse in the race. I don’t. Who’s objective in all of this? The reporter.
I understand that parents want the best for children. I really do. But there are ways to do that other than making everyone else’s life miserable. If most of these players knew how their parents were acting they’d be embarrassed.
A teenager gains nothing if they’re playing because of their parents pull. They gain more if they earned it. In fact, they gain even more if they don’t start. Life is that way. It’s unfair at times. It doesn’t always reward hard work. It doesn’t entitle anyone to anything. You don’t always get what you want. To forcefully keep your kids from experiencing this early in their lives will almost certainly handicap them in the real world where, more often than not, it doesn’t matter who your parents are.
Unfortunately this isn’t reserved for only lacrosse. It’s a disease spreading to every sport in high school. At a time when scholastic sports are on life support parents should be joining with coaches and the administration and be on the same team. Many aren’t. That’s sad. It’s pathetic. It needs to end.
Again, I don’t believe this is all parents. It’s a minority of them but a very vocal minority. I appreciate most of the parents. I understand the time and financial sacrifices you make and I enjoy speaking with most parents throughout the season.
Those that read this and nod their heads understand the problem. Those that read this and shake their heads ARE the problem.