Parents of Children in Competitive Sport
We like to talk about how sport is such a great vehicle for teaching important life skills and bringing out the good and the best in us as competitors and human beings. However what people are less inclined to talk about is the equally powerful, but a far uglier and bad side of sport.
The good, the bad, and the ugly!
I have been coaching competitive dancing for the past twenty-eight years. I have lived part of my life as a professional dancer in the competitive sport called Dancesport. My years of dancing have taught me so many good and wonderful things, and have shaped the fabulous person I am 😄
But I’ve also seen the bad and the ugly! I have been extremely hurt and could have been destroyed by this sport. But I am a rock and, thanks to the support of my family, great coaches and prayer, I am super confident!
Many champions I know, have suffered extreme damage from this sport: ranging from eating disorders, low self-esteem, phobias, personality disorders, jealousy etc.
Having trained champions almost my entire adult life and still today, the one thing I cannot wrap my head around is the actions of parents of competitive children. In my view this is an important aspect to unpack, as it directly affects the future of their child, which is so important, but which some parents just don’t get!
I think my experience allows me to share a little . . . well, a lot actually!
What I’m going to share is not about my opinion – it is my reality, my first-hand experience of that which I have witnessed in my dealings with my students and their parents.
1. The ‘Mean Mom’ or ‘Mean Dad’ – aka BIG BULLY (BB)
This is a bully parent – not only do they bully other children and their parents, but will go as far as trying to bully the trainer or coach.
BBs are recognisable by their pushy, brash & domineering behaviour:
They normally have a lot to say about and to everyone, as if no-one has an opinion. They work on getting sympathisers – these are often other parents who fear them, so the scared parents become their groupie in order to avoid attack. They target certain individuals, often conniving and wishing ill of them. They despise other talented children – I mean really despise to a point of wanting to harm the child or cause an injury. They want their own children to be the best – no other child deserves greatness but theirs. They often create lies about other children – usually to tarnish a child or their parents in the eyes of others (remember their main object is the elimination or removal of the talented child). They often forget about their own children as they focus on the target. When that happens, their own child who is often also bullied by them, is relieved as their parent’s focus is elsewhere.
The BB’s behaviour often results in their own child fearing them and their child is often hated by other children because of their parent’s behaviour. The BB’s child often becomes quietly depressed without anybody noticing.
2. The ‘Obsessed-About-Winning’ Parent – aka NON-ACHIEVER (NA)
This parent is often the one that never accomplished their own dreams and are set on ensuring their children fulfil them. Some of these parents are ex sports people and believe that their children must surely be like them and will therefore be the best (because they are there to ensure that it happens).
NAs are recognisable by their insistent competitive & manipulative behaviour:
Often, they are second coaches to their children. They ‘know more that the teacher or coach’ and their children must listen to them – you wonder why they send their children for lessons in the first place. They will sometimes use money, if they have the means, and throw it around with the hope of finding favours. Some try and buy the trainer off – oh yes . . . listen to this . . . to give their child more than others, or to stop the coach from teaching specific children. They are obsessed and unstoppable – their children often go to extreme measures to cause themselves permanent injury, in an effort to make it all stop.
A NA’s behaviour very often results in their own children being scared of failure – they tend to have panic attacks on competition days, they fake an injury to avoid getting bad results, they “fall sick” on the day or week of the competition often from extreme anxiety and stress, they are prone to injuries which they welcome so as to avoid competition. Their children do not follow instructions to get better from an injury or sickness, because they would rather not be well in order to avoid it all.
3. The ‘Scared’ Parent – aka WILTING FLOWER (WF)
These parents often don’t have an opinion about anything. They do not like conflict so they will do anything to avoid it. They are often sad individuals who themselves need a lot of encouragement and a self confidence boost.
WFs are recognisable by their lack of self-esteem & confidence:
It appears as if they would rather be invisible – their children often suffer from not being seen or protected. They generally don’t have a strong personality and cannot withstand the tantrums and craziness brought on by everyone. They crumble next to other parents, especially the BB’s and NA’s – Their children have to watch the BB and the NA run havoc whilst everyone is watching and their parents do nothing.
A WF’s behaviour often results in their child becoming quietly resentful and angry with their parents.
4. The ‘Spy’ Parent – aka PEEPING TOM/MARY (PT/PM)
Now these parents are notorious for trying to befriend EVERYONE, starting with the coach or teacher. They want to know everything from love life, family, finances… the works! They would scratch in your cupboards and wardrobes if push comes to shove. I believe they are just the lowest of the low.
PT/PMs are recognisable by their ever-so-sweet and extremely nosy & overbearing behaviour:
They make sure they know as much as possible about other people in order to use it for favours or to fuel animosity amongst people. They cause fires…which they like to fuel and keep burning. They feed off turbulence, misery and drama. They spend lots of time calling people to catch up. They intentionally like speaking to children to fish for information – they have no qualms befriending a child to get information about their parents or a coach. They like pretending that they are everyone’s friend. They like to portray a ‘holier than thou’ attitude – they continually speak “Jesus talk” and some spit bible verses like kindergarten rhymes. They cause havoc and often like to see people fighting and take pleasure in destroying others but claim innocence. They like playing victim too – they often cry when confronted, claiming that people are falsely accusing them, and that people don’t like them. Their own children are often embarrassed by them and must suffer the fact that other children talk about their parent because generally the other children see things and are wise to the fact.
A PT/PM’s behaviour very often results in their own children suffering bouts of depression with a tendency of becoming suicidal.
5. The ‘Liar’ Parent – aka PATHALOGICAL LIAR (PL)
These parents are the pathological liars. They have the same attributes as the PT/PM but on another level – they lie about everything, everyone (children, parents, happenings), about themselves . . . They lie, lie, lie! They are sick!
The PLs are recognisable by their continuous ability to lie, as simple as that:
Because of the serious problem they have, they often play victim – they can cry on cue, you know, like professional criers. They could be hired just for their ability to cry on cue. They are often very unhappy human beings; they lie about everything…even when it’s unnecessary. They often destroy their children’s future because of their unnecessary lies. A lot of people are harmed by their lies, a lot of pain is endured by many.
The problem with a PL’s behaviour is that they build such a web of lies that they cannot keep up with what they have said. Their own children know that they are liars, everyone knows . . . this often results in their child building their own world, where they pretend that it all doesn’t exist, in order to cope.
6. The ‘Couldn’t-Care-Less’ Parent – aka HAKUNAMATHATA (HAKUNAS)
These parents are never here nor there, they could not be bothered – they just don’t seem to care or perhaps they just do not have the time. Their children watch with envy, while other children’s parents’ fuss over them.
The HAKUNAS are recognised by their absenteeism:
They send someone else on their behalf when parents are called to attend. When they do pitch up, they are lost because they don’t know what’s going on. They become the main attraction when they pitch, as many parents and children have never seen them, at which point they usually become instant targets for the PT/PM.
The result of a HAKUNAS’ behaviour is that their children often feel abandoned or alone. Their child either tries to make a scene to create attention, or tries to be invisible, because they cannot bear the pity they see in other people’s eyes. Don’t forget that the BB would already, very loudly, have verbalised how “this poor child is not loved!” using the opportunity to make random untrue statements like: “they are filthy rich, but they can’t make an effort to pitch up.”
7. The ‘Super’ Parent – aka SUPER MOM/SUPER DAD (SM/SD)
These parents are often, in my opinion, people that have been through the washing machine of life. They are realists, they know what it takes to achieve and play a fair game.
The SM/SDs are recognised by their sincere and helpful attitudes:
They show respect and good manners towards every competitor, their parents and the coach or trainer. They follow the coach’s instructions and encourage their child to listen and do what the coach teaches them. They offer their help and are always there to support their child and the team no matter what position their child or team achieves in a competition. They never focus on any negative aspect or talk bad of any child, their parent or the coach. They encourage hard work, discipline and a sense of pride for any accomplishment, no matter how big or small, that their child achieves.
The result of a SM/SD’s behaviour is that they have confident, happy and well-rounded children that can deal positively with situations and know how to cope and interact in a competitive world. Their children have learnt the art of being a good sport in both victory and defeat.
As mentioned, I have seen and experienced it all!
My experience also extends to the children that enter the competitive space – their attitudes, approach and interaction with fellow competitors.
But that’s another blog for another day!
With love, TK
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