Is This Sport?

UPDATE:

As of February 10, 2008, the Being a Mom is Great blog has moved here (www.soapboxmom.com). Please visit Soapbox Mom to read more articles by this author (bmg mom is now Soapboxmom).

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My daughter has been playing basketball half her life. She plays well and has a good time doing it. She opted not to play travel ball so she could just have fun playing it without the intensity and competitiveness of travel teams.

Recently, however, we experienced something that may have changed her approach and overall state of mind with respect to the sport. The crux of the problem? A parent.

In this particular game, she was playing really well. In fact, I was amazed by a few of her shots. It looked like she was being moved by some greater force or something. I mean, she floated down the court and, in one case, hit a shot from the three point line, using only her right arm, flinging it in with nothin’ but net.

Nothin’ But Net

It was beautiful.

She was having so much fun.

Until a dad from the other team apparently decided that the three high school girls coaching his daughter’s team weren’t doing their jobs coaching his daughter. He stepped in and took over, intimidating the girls and getting his face right in all of their faces. I couldn’t hear what he said to them, but my daughter’s teammates overheard him say to his daughter, “You see that #23? Whatever you do, don’t let her take a shot!”

He barked his orders and sent out his attack dog.

We’re talking fifth and sixth grade girls, here, people.

I was keeping the clock for the game, which meant I was sitting next to a dad from the other team, who was keeping the stats and the score in the official game book. He and I had been engaging in friendly chatter for the duration of the game. When Attack Dad turned his daughter into Attack Girl even scorekeeper dad noticed. He said, “Wow, she’s being pretty nasty.” He told me about how he believes that a lot of parents try to live through their kids and work out whatever they were unable to accomplish in their own childhoods. Sure, I’ve heard that and believe it. But, geesh!

At one point, when the girl had excessively elbowed my daughter (and had the bruises and cuts to show for it afterward), she asked Attack Girl, “What are you doing?” Attack Girl responded harshly, “It’s called playing a sport.”

Well, that’s not the way I’ve been taught to play sports. Or the way my kids have been taught to play sports. Certainly not girls’ basketball, anyway. And certainly not in elementary school.

After four fouls called on his daughter, my daughter went to the drinking fountain, shaken, crying and battered. Scorekeeper dad nudged me and said softly, “Er, I think your daughter’s crying.” Sure enough, he’d pushed her to the point of tears. She walked over to me. I hugged her and could feel her shaking. She showed me her cuts and said, “Mom, I’ve never played with someone so mean.”

The coaches took my daughter out for the rest of the game.

I didn’t know how to handle this situation. Attack Dad stands at about 6’3″ and fiercely glares at people. I don’t think it’s my imagination. During that game he looked fierce. Should I have gone over to the guy and said something? If so, what? Would that have really solved anything? The coaches were apologizing, the referees were apologizing, even scorekeeper dad apologized. He told me that his dad coached his basketball team when he was a boy and that, in his opinion, that girl was way over the top. There were definitely moments when it was all I could do to hold myself back from running out there and getting between them.

It was just awful.

I know I’m a bit of a lightweight and hate conflict, but I’m also a sports lover and appreciate the pleasure one can get from playing a good competitive game. But this? This incident was not sport.

I looked over at the guy and scowled in my own kind of glaring way, but then I remembered the hockey player’s dad who killed a guy. So, I decided to walk away. It’s what my daughter wanted to do, too. She said, “Mom, I just want to leave. Please.” So I wrapped my arm around her, held her close and walked out the door.

She really hasn’t played the same way since that game. I can’t help but wonder if she subconsciously fears more attacks, so she’s pulling back a bit on her level of play. Better to fit in than to be attacked (?!). I hope not. I hope the Attack Family did not win by intimidation. But, on the other hand, maybe my daughter has a point when she says we should start thinking about tennis.

Tennis Court Clip

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Images from Google Images and El Conquistador.

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25 Comments

Filed under Children, family, girls' basketball, parenting, personal, sports

25 responses to “Is This Sport?

  1. Pingback: Sports Blogging » Post Topic » Is This Sport?

  2. It’s terrible how kids’ sports can bring out the worst in some parents. I know I have a tendency to get too upset when I feel my daughter has been unfairly judged at her gym meets, but at least I don’t go out there and tell the coaches how to do their jobs (like some other parents I know).

    I hope the dad from hell doesn’t permanently ruin your daughter’s enthusiasm for the game. It’s hard for a kid to know how to shrug off the actions of a bully and continue on. It sounds like her coach needs to give her (and probably the rest of the team) a pep talk to help them get their game back.

    [Thanks, Donna. I wish they would. Unfortunately, they’re young girls who don’t seem comfortable dealing with it. I’m with you — I really hope it doesn’t continue to dampen her enthusiasm for the sport.

    — bmgmom]

  3. This is something that we’re are only going to see more and more of. Parents have to stop living their dreams through their kids and taking the game so seriously. At such a young age, the most important apect of the game should always be fun.

    [I agree completely. I really want her to think of basketball (and sports overall) as fun — as a release from stress rather than a stressor. Thanks for your comment.

    — bmgmom]

  4. When my cousin was in high school, there was a parent who did almost the same exact thing to her: telling his own daughter to keep her from scoring @ all costs. Eventually, my uncle tired of it, there was a confrontation and the other parent ended up unconscious on the floor.

    Not saying that it was the right thing to do, but that sometimes, you don’t know who’s child you’re attempting to mess with!! If this is a habit of his, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before 7’3 dad comes along…

    I believe you handled it well. I’m sorry they made your little girl cry. 😦

    [Yikes! Wow, what a story and a good point! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

    — bmgmom]

  5. Ah, crap. I hate to read that. My heart just goes out to your daughter.

    While I don’t like conflict, I would have had to do something, but that’s just the way I am. I would have contacted whoever is in charge of the League (the commissioner or whomever) and let him/her know what happened at the game and how the quality of play deteriorated. Parents should not be permitted to step in to a coach’s role unless they *are* the coach and can be held accountable to following the rules of the organization.

    And also, my heart goes out to you. I would have been very, very upset. I can be fairly laid back about a lot of things but when someone hurts my kid or crosses a line, I get furious.

    Kate and Chris joined a league called Upward this year (upward.org) for basketball. It is truly fantastic. I am thrilled for Chris and could kick myself for not having discovered it sooner for Kate. It is a Christian based league that is all about the kids playing good sports for the fun of it, while firmly maintaining good values.

    Hugs,
    Leeann
    niccofive.blogspot.com

    [Thanks, Leeann. I know what you mean about getting upset in a different way when somebody’s hurting your kids. I was actually surprised at how ruffled I got. As the kids have been getting older, I’ve been working at brushing things off and trying to understand the whole notion of kids will be kids. Let them work it out, yada, yada. But, yeah, this incident was really upsetting. I’ll check out that league you mentioned. Thanks!

    —bmgmom]

  6. i’m horrified that kids and parents act like that! seriously, it’s an extracurricular activity, people…it’s not the pros. it’s one thing to take it seriously but…my god…it reminded me of the cheerleader mom who killed the head cheerleader on her child’s behalf…or, something of that sort!
    i guess that it’s a good thing then, that my kids aren’t into sports because, i’d have to do some serious butt whooping!

    [Hey, thanks, Melissa. Yeah, could you come over and whoop some butt for me? 😉 I agree, this was way beyond just taking it seriously. I respect players who challenge other players but this was altogether different. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Melbs.

    — bmgmom]

  7. Being the mom of two male athletes I know exactly what you are talking about. The dads in little league start messing up the fun when the kids are about 8. OY! High school coaches are really terrible at our high school.

    Sports should be fun, self esteem buidling events when the kids are still in elementary school, junior high as well. Sorry your daughter had to deal with this.

    [Thanks Janice. Yeah, I mean I just have no recollection of sports being like this when we were growing up. That’s what surprises me. When I dug around the web looking for similar stories I was surprised to see that it’s not as rare as you might hope. Am I naive to think it should still be fun?

    —bmgmom]

  8. TrackMom

    I too am a mom of an athletic girl.She runs track. One time she was edging out a girl she had repeatedly beaten many times before and the men in the audience got up started taunting and say rather mean things like she’s washed up,she’s not going to win any more…(she is 8yrs old)

    Well my daughter did win and when she came back to the stands they were still talking like she was the loser and no more wins in her.She looked at me and qutely said”Mom why are they saying those things about me?” All I could say was they are silly and you are a winner.

    The girl never beat my daughter and my daughter went on to become the National 100m champion in 2007 and the fastest time in the nation overall .

    Sometimes you just have to let Talent rise and Character too!

    Love your blog,I will be back..

    Trackmom
    http://trackmom.wordpress.com/

    [Wow! What a fantastic story, TM! I’m so glad you shared it. I’ll keep thinking about your daughter when I go to games. Let talent rise and character, too. I love it. Thanks.

    —bmgmom]

  9. Yeah.. unfortunately this sounds very familiar.. we have a national t.v. campaign right now ‘Give kids their game back’ to make parents aware of the problem (see Youtube: http://nl.youtube.com/watch?v=m9GQAFapUHQ).

    It really breaks my heart to hear your child loosing her joy and enthusiasm for such a beautiful sport (I LOVE basketbal too).. To see my child being deliberately and repeatedly hurt by someone would really bring out the bad side in me (or should I say the mother lion ;-)).. But, that definitely is not the way to handle it. That would have been showing the same behaviour yourself, and clearly not what your daughter wanted you too..

    I’ve been thinking for a while about your post, and I honestly do believe that choosing another sport at this moment anyway) might not be the best way.. At least, assuming that this girl was nothing more than an exception to the rule… Given the reactions of the other people involved I’m assuming that’s the case?
    The lesson it will teach her about dealing with intimidation vs. doing whatever she really loves might not be the right one…

    I really hope she’ll find back her joy for basketball, and see this girl (or better, her father) for what they are…

    warm wishes to you,

    Ellen

    [Wow. I loved that video. So it’s not just USA. Amazing. Thank you so much for your thoughts. I’ve been thinking about what you’ve said and I agree. Why should she give up the sport or love it any less? Attack Family was definitely the exception. I’ve talked with her about it and will continue to do so. I reminded her that, of the hundreds of games she’s played, this was the first time something like this happened. So, maybe we should take this as an opportunity to learn — make it a teaching moment.

    As TM said in an earlier comment, just let her talent rise, keep doing what she’s doing and realize those bullies will always be out there, but that we can’t let them intimidate us. Thanks so much.

    —bmgmom]

  10. It’s a shame some parents act like this at their kids sporting events. It ruins it. I know when my daughters played softball/soccer there were a few occasions a ref/umpire would step in and ask the parent to tone it down or leave. Most of the time that worked. I hope your daughter gets back to playing the way she was previous to this incident very soon.

    [Thanks, Mikster. I do, too.

    —bmgmom]

  11. That’s awful. Reminds me of the film footage of the Chicago-area dad who stepped in on a wrestling match and threw his son’s opponent off him and into the air about 5 feet because he didn’t like the way it was going.

    I agree with Marquis: it’s getting worse. My son just started playing Lacrosse this year as a sophomore, and my pride about him taking this on at his age is only slightly tempered by thoughts of “I hope the other kids and parents who’ve been doing the sport for four or so years already don’t give him a hard time.”

    I just wish people would let their kids PLAY.

    [I agree completely. If they’re going to be too intense about it, just stay home. It’s better for everyone involved. Thanks, Melisa.

    —bmgmom]

  12. As a man, I can say that it’s hard to walk away from confrontation. Culturally, we’re supposed to stand up for what we believe in, even if it means throwing down. But at the same time, this isn’t the 1950’s, where a black eye was the worst that could ever happen. I really don’t know what I would have done, but suffice it to say that this “Dad” is a loser. And he knows it. That’s why he needs to live vicariously through a sixth grader. I think the thought of him crying himself to sleep each night for not making his JV basketball team in 1984 would be enough to let me rest easy with a big grin on my face.

    [Ah, BD. I’m tellin’ ya, only you could make me smile about this post. You’re the best. I’ll keep that image with me. Thanks.

    —bmgmom]

  13. momofali

    Oh, that is just awful!! My neighbor is in the 6th grade and her basketball team recently played in a game where three girls were injured (two sprained ankles and a broken finger), because the other team was playing so rough. Come on people! It’s a game, and these are CHILDREN! I hate that this happened to your daughter. I hope you’ll tell her what BD said…that this Dad is trying to make up for his own shortcomings.

    [Oh my gosh, Momo! That’s nuts! A broken finger!? I really don’t get it. What’s the point? How do those little girls feel about themselves when they go to bed the night of the game? It’s just sad. But, yeah, I’ll be sure to tell her what BD said.

    Thanks for your comment.
    —bmgmom]

  14. Do you want me to knock this guy out?

    I am kidding….I think.

    [Oh yeah, could you? No, I’m kidding too, of course. But thanks for the offer. I know where your heart is, Dan.

    — bmgmom]

  15. I agree, it’s not sport, it’s just mean. It’s horrible what that girl did to your daughter, but even more awful what that dad is doing to his girl. Poor thing will be hated and despised for the rest of her life, not only by her team-mates, but also by anyone else she feels she needs to compete against.

    I hope your girl is able to quickly recover from both the physical and mental effects of this bullying.

    [Absolutely. That’s such a great point. I feel so sorry for her.

    Thanks for your kind words.

    —bmgmom]

  16. Kim

    I hate reading this kind of intimidation that kids face from parents. It is one thing that kids have to deal with other kids, but throw a parent in the mix who is supposed to know better? It just infuriates me to no end.

    Happy thoughts to your girl after encountering such a moron.

    [Oh, I know! That’s the worst part of this whole thing. Friendly, tough competition is one thing, but a nasty overly involved parent…
    Thanks so much for your happy thoughts.

    —bmgmom]

  17. I just wanted to say thank you to all of the wonderful bloggers for their compassionate, supportive comments. I’m happy to say that I think they’ve really helped. I told my daughter about your thoughts and words of wisdom and she does seem to have a better understanding of the situation. In fact, in practice last night she seemed to have her spark back. So, thank you!!

  18. Hey that’s really cool to hear (read?)! Thanks for the update. And I am really happy that I could put an image in your head to smile about because this stuff is pretty darn frustrating and we see more and more of it each day.

    [Too true, BD. Too true.

    — bmgmom]

  19. Wow…my heart goes out for you and your daughter. That sucks. I think it would’ve taken everything in me to NOT say anything. I think walking away was a good choice, you have no clue what this guy is capable of! I would call like another commenter said, to report it. I don’t know much about rules, but was he allowed to do that? Step in as a coach when he was not one? Next time (if it is a rule), maybe you could get the refs to step in by memorizing where that rule is in the rulebook? Or writing it and keeping it in your purse?

    In Middle School, I played girl’s basketball. I’m 5’1″ at 22 years old…so in 7th grade…I was even smaller. I would have girls elbow me in the stomach and turn so the refs couldn’t see and dig their claws in me…and then my coaches taught me to pivot with the ball in a firm grip and basically clear a way…which happened to also hit some of those girls back.

    I think that one kid could’ve been thrown out of the game, couldn’t she? I mean, there HAS to be a rule against abusing other players on the court!

  20. As a dad, I can say that I share BusyDad’s feelings. The trick is, when you see your own daughter mistreated by the other team, what can you do? It triggers a protective, instinctual desire to punch “Attack Dad” for being such an SOB, but intellectually, you know that’s not setting a good example for your daughter and could lead to a lawsuit or even an arrest. What I try to do is appeal to the refs quietly during time outs, or to calmly say something to our own team’s coach. I try to be careful to not come from the perspective of telling them how to do their jobs, but rather speak as a concerned parent. Something like “Not sure if you’ve noticed, but my daughter has gotten hacked out there several times and I can tell she’s hurting. I’d really appreciate it if you could keep an eye on that before something serious happens to her. Thanks!”

    I coach my kids, and I know that this approach of making a discreet comment to the ref has been very effective in highlighting certain overzealous conduct on the other team and typically leads to the ref stepping up and calling more fouls. Often the refs are are just young kids volunteering, and their own skill as refs varies wildly. Often they err on the side of using their whistle sparingly — not just for physical contact but for traveling, double-dribble, “3-seconds” lane violations, etc., in the spirit of letting the kids play. They really don’t have a personal stake in the outcome, and probably didn’t realize the seriousness of the fouls. Staying cool helps keep the refs from getting biased against your team — if you lose it, it may backfire.

    It is infuriating to see it happen, however. Interestingly, I’ve seen it more often in girls basketball than boys basketball. Maybe it’s because in boys basketball there’s an understood code that you don’t pull that kind of crap in games. Maybe it’s because in girls basketball you have some dads that are wishing their daughters to be more “guy-like” and physical (perhaps dads without sons are the greater offenders here – I don’t know). No excuse — it is ridiculous.

  21. missivesfromsuburbia

    Ohhh, you are so wise, my dear. Good for you for listening to what your daughter wanted to do. That’s a lesson for me to store away for a future date, because I’m pretty sure I would have gone over and shot my mouth off to Attack Dad and embarrassed the heck out of my kid.

  22. I agree. You did a fabulous job keeping your cool and listening to your daughter. So glad to hear she’s getting back into the game 🙂

  23. My daughter played soccer from the time she was in kindergarten through all four years of high school. She played travel ball too. I know first hand how bad some parents can get. It is amazing and often frightening. But, the friends she made through this sport she will have the rest of her life. Encourage her to keep playing, but don’t force her if the joy has gone out of the game.

  24. joepah

    The Refs clearly should have done a better job of officiating and noticed what the dad had called his daughter to do. I would have stopped the game after the first hard foul and warned that girl and told her that one more of those and she would get a technical and so would the coach. I would have warned both coaches and benches about it and that should have done the trick…some refs just [stink] and some are ‘ok’ but are just pushovers. It sounds like this ref was calling fouls but wasn’t proactive enough to know how to handle the situation.

    You were right in avoiding the situation. You taught your daughter a beautiful lesson in doing so, whereas that dad proved he was a [jerk] and deserves a [butt] beating. What a fool. I would have taken my daughter out of the game after foul 2 and left the gym. Enoughs enough.

    [Whoa, dude. I hear you. Wish you had been there! Thanks for weighing in here.

    —bmgmom]

  25. sponda

    I have a daughter that is in the 10th grade. She had to switch schools when she became a 9th grader because girls were bullying her (3 long years of that) so she is at the other school now. She is active in all sports and is good at them. But some of the parents are calling the coach and complaining that their child should play varsity because their child deserves to play too (my duaghter was the only sophomore that was asked by the coach) so parents are mad. I think being that she is not from this town and their kids are I am thinking they do not like this at all!! And one of the girls on the basketball team went to the coach and told him that my daughter was gonna try out for cheerleading and so the coaches went to my daughter and really yelled at her, she was so upset, so now the girl that told on her is starting over my daughter (because she told) and the girl admitted to it because she wanted to play. So my daughter feels like she can not say anything about it because she is a outsider. I have 3 kids, this one is my last child, I NEVER had to deal with kind of meddling parents before. This is so stupid. What can a person do in this type of situation? This happened in Volleyball as well.