There are all sorts of ways parents can manage to make life difficult for their children, their children’s team-mates and the coaches. Really talented ones can manage the hat-trick of upsetting all three groups at once – a special kind of skill.
It always flabbergasts me that parents can presumably hold down a day job without running out of a meeting sobbing that they didn’t get to speak or crying that the other midwife got to hold the baby first. Yet, faced with their children’s hobby, common sense and rational thought goes out of the window.
There was a competition last week. I have no axe to grind as sports baby didn’t compete as her categories weren’t covered by it but I ended up helping at it. All day. The parents whose children were actually competing and who sat in the stands drinking coffee and relaxing I will cover another time. I’m not bitter.
Two of the girls competing should have gone home thrilled with themselves, delighted at the day. For one it was her very first competition. She won no medals but was placed in the top ten out of 100 competitors – a huge achievement at a first meet. For the second, she took home two medals – both silver, one as a individual and one within the team. The parents should have been thrilled. They weren’t.
Child number 1’s mother is Entitled Edna. Edna thinks that her daughter will be an Olympian one day. She has made it clear that she thinks she is doing the club a favour by allowing them to coach her child. I spoke to her at the start of the day and she was glittering with excitement. At last, wonder child was going to show everyone. I could see her face after the individual results – set, grim, unsmiling. Wonder child had been beaten – and worse, by members of her own club! Edna couldn’t even patronise the other parents in her club. Still, the team event was to come. It came. It went. And with it went all the team’s hopes for a medal.
True, it didn’t help that penalties were awarded for matters that the coach or team manager should have prevented. However, they made no difference to the overall result. The team were so far behind the top four placed squads there was no chance that they could medal. Edna didn’t see this. She didn’t see that with different meets having different criteria, someone always get caught out. She didn’t see that an older aged group team from her club benefited from the penalties awarded to another team and managed to get a joint bronze. She didn’t see that it was her very first competition and perhaps it might be better if she figured out how things work first. She got hold of one of the club coaches afterwards and demanded to know who had made the mistakes. He refused to give names. She was livid. She is currently threatening to remove her daughter from the club. A promising and young athlete (we are talking pre-teen) who has had the fun ripped from her day because she didn’t achieve what her mother wanted. That’ll make her want to compete again.
Child 2 has the opposite problem. Her mother, Negative Nellie, doesn’t expect anything – which sounds good. Until… After the meet on Sunday, I congratulated the child and Nellie on the medals. “Well, I don’t understand how they came second,” complained Nellie. “I thought they were so much worse than the other teams.” “But how could you think that? Didn’t you watch them?” “No, I thought it would be humiliating. Did the other teams have a lot of penalties to bring them below us?” “No. It was an honest, fair and square win against a tough field. You should be proud.” “Well, I don’t understand it,” to child, “I watched you all in training yesterday and you were all dreadful.” I felt drained and depressed talking to Nellie so imagine how the child must feel – that she has fluked a medal that she has no real entitlement to. What a life lesson that is.
So few of them will go on to a professional career. The only real point now is to keep healthy and have fun.