Friday, October 1, 2010

The Cheering Section

I remember a time when Friday night's schedule included nothing but unwinding from a busy week via happy hour, maybe hanging out with friends or occasionally going out to dinner. Now that my kids are older, though, the last four Friday nights have meant packing up for a weekend tennis tournament that has included a Friday evening match time. Does this make me a candidate for parent of the year? No. Since I'm not able to crack open a bottle until after 9:00, do my kids realize the happy hour sacrifices that I've been making? Absolutely not. Does this make me borderline insane? Definitely.

After spending so much time at such a wide variety of tennis matches over the last month, I've had the displeasure of coming into contact with pretty much every type of annoying sports-watching parent out there. Therefore, I have decided to write a little list of rules, guidelines and basic tips so that people can get a clue, stop embarrassing themselves and, most important of all, stop pissing me off.

The Mean Mom's Guide to
Parenting and Not Being Batshit Insane
While Watching Junior Sports
Like (for example) Tennis
  • During the game/set/match, don't sit by the opponent's parents. You may be best friends, but that doesn't mean you need to be best friends while your kids are taking the current situation very seriously and trying to beat each other, preferably without splitting sets. It's kind of awkward for everyone, especially for your kids who definitely notice you guys sitting next to each other and can't help but wonder what it is you're laughing about during the changeovers.
  • If you do insist on sitting by the opponent's parents and your kid is the one getting beat, don't say things like "Oh man, little Johnny is playing like crap today. Little Johnny is doing so bad. Wow, is little Johnny ever having an off day." Instead, stop making excuses and give a little credit to the kid whose great playing skills are being rewarded with a win.
  • If your kid is acting like an immature little shit and displaying horrible sportsmanship during a match by yelling, smashing equipment, screaming obscenities, cheating or any combination of the above, do not rationalize his behavior by saying stupid things like "He's just so passionate about winning and is such a competitor" or "He's still young and gets so emotional about big points." You honestly think that the kid acting like a civil human being isn't passionate and doesn't care about winning? And if you think that your kid isn't old enough to be able to handle himself on the court and behave for two sets, then your kid probably isn't old enough to be playing tournaments.
  • Pay attention to what other parents are doing around you. Do you see them coaching their kid from the stands? Are they cheering for each and every point by clapping loudly and screaming? If not, then please notice that everyone else is looking at you while thinking "PLEASE GET A FUCKING CLUE AND SHUT THE HELL UP!" and come to the conclusion that you shouldn't do these things, either.
  • Come prepared for the day. Kids get hungry after running around a tennis court for an hour and a half, sometimes longer. I always pack a cooler for my kids, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I've packed enough for your kid, too. Stop assuming that everyone is always going to be so generous with an extra sandwich or granola bar. We may not always be able to remember the first names of every single tennis parent, but eventually, after enough tournaments, no one will be able to forget yours: Mooch.
  • If your kid loses, try to refrain from talking to him about the match for at least 20 minutes. He needs time to process what just happened and the only thing that will result from an immediate barrage of advice or criticism from you is anger from him. It doesn't matter if you say "It's amazing you managed to hit any forehands out there since your head was up your ass" or "Wow, that sure was a fun match to watch!" Even if you say "I thought you played great," the result will be the same: tears and anger and a kid that is now 100% sure that his parents absolutely, positively, without a doubt, do not get it.
  • If you do insist on confronting your kid immediately after losing a match, please go outside and do it in private. We don't want to see him cry.
  • Try to remember that no one is perfect, no one wins every single match or every tournament they enter and even the best players have off-days. And even though this rule is hard to remember, after a lot of practice it does get easier. I should know, since I've had the opportunity to remind myself of it every Friday and Saturday for the last four weeks.

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