Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lord, Spare Me From Being A "Psycho Sports Dad"

I was pretty nuts about basketball between the ages of 12-18. It was really my source of self-worth through being "good" at something. I wanted to be known and stand apart from the crowd. I learned quickly at a young age that if you were good at sports people would like you and respect you. I wanted that. I poured myself into basketball. It became a job and eventually a chore.

God eventually spared me from playing college basketball (through a couple of freak injuries in high school) and my heart quickly turned toward music. There is much more that I could write concerning this season of my life, but that'll have to wait for another post.

When I was heavy in the basketball culture in high school, sometimes I would get paid to referee games for junior high boys. Without fail at these games there would always be one or two "Psycho Sports Dads". You all have seen these guys. They froth at the mouth every minute their son or daughter is involved in the game and continually ride the refs and/or the coach if things are not going the way they like. They like to linger around during practice just to make sure everything is fair and done correctly (from their point of view).

These types of Dads always used to get on my nerves big-time when I was refereeing. So many times I wanted to just stop the game and announce to the over-bearing Dad, "If you want to come down here and do my job for me, then go right ahead". I never had the guts to do it, but dreamed of that scenario in my mind many times. These Dads fail to understand that with young kids, if you call everything just like the rule book says, no activity will actually take place since the kids are not skilled enough yet to play the game correctly and fluidly.

I vowed to myself when my first son was born that I would not be a "Psycho Sports Dad".

One of the neighbor boys (age 10) came over to our house today to play with Taylor (age 6). They went out back and started to shoot some hoops. I suggested that they play H-O-R-S-E. Taylor didn't know how to play and I don't think the other kid knew either. I taught them quickly the rules and off they went.

I noticed in my soul a strong desire for my son Taylor to completely rip the heart out of the neighbor boy. Crush his spirit, break his will, make him bleed and send him home in tears! I was throwing out nice phrases to both boys like, "Good shot", "Good try", and "You'll get it next time!", but deep down I wanted complete domination, annihilation, and destruction from Taylor. Beat him down and make him beg for mercy!!!

Where were these feeling coming from?!? Could it be that I'm on my way to being the next "Psycho Sports Dad"? May it never be!

Ok, this is quite exaggerated to be sure, but I did notice these feelings creeping in on me in much more subtle ways. I once heard someone say that very rational people quickly become very irrational when it comes to their kids. I'm sure this could very easily happen to me in the area of sports with my kids.

Any advice from older Dads out there on how to keep yourself in line when it comes to sports and your kids?

P.S. - If you want to see Taylor and I in action you can watch one of our competitions here:


Anonymous said...

Even worse is this... (you'll have to excuse the obscure English game being played)

Anonymous said...

I get that - was with Joshua at soccer practice the other night and I found myself outcoaching the coach.

Coach didn't care that Joshua was shooting the thumbs up every time he touched the ball. Dad did. Suddenly I thought,

"Help me Jesus. I'm THAT dad."

Anonymous said...

Yep, been there ... done that. I think it is easy for dads, especially with their sons, to fall into this sort of mindset. I think it is indicative of a misguided sense of what is important in this world. We easily "fall in line" with the world and place the value of our individual achievement over God's plan for individual achievement. As Ryan says, we are hopelessly meritorious, but we are also relentlessly judicial. Anything that "isn't fair" according to our judgement seat, especially in relation to our kids, gets an immediate death sentence with a little helping of public humiliation heaped on so we can graciously provide an "example" to others of our rightness. We feel justified in our correctness, just loving to speak the truth. Instead, we dads should look at each situation to see what God is trying to teach our sons .... and us. These scenarios may be precisely set up by God to float some self-serving sin in our own lives. Your kid may just be playing basketball ... for fun.
Ya think?

Anonymous said...

Kelly - You're right on. Love that. Is it possible that Joshua's playing soccer for fun, and yet God in His wisdom is using that experience to teach me how much I still value the opinions of others? Pretty humbling.

Vitamin Z said...

As I have been thinking more about this I think there are two main sides to the issue. One positive and one very negative (with many implications).

1. Positive - I ferociously love my kids and want to see them succeed. I think this is natural and normal and very good.

2. I find my self-worth firmly rooted in the performance of my kids. If they do well, I feel good about myself. If they do bad, I feel bad about myself since they are a huge reflection on me. This will turn into me putting huge amounts of pressure on them because my self-worth is at stake. Kids are not meant to bear this load and it will most likely crush them and spoil the relationship. I have seen it happen many times with my peers when I was in high school. Not having a grace based relationship, but a performance driven one as we know, will destroy them. It also makes the other kids they compete against a means to an end (crush them at all costs cause Daddy's pride is on the line) as opposed to kids that should be loved and respected (and competed hard against).

Evers said...

You might spend a few minutes listening to C.J. Mahaney's message, "Don't Waste Your Sports!" I have it, just haven't had time; but it seems appropriate.

Anonymous said...

this is a normal response to parenting...whether it be sports of whatever (acting on stage for our daughter) it's hard for us to learn that our child is not our trophy! I'm constantly repenting in my heart about sinful attitudes in regards to this. Lord, help me!

Anonymous said...

I believe that we call it "making an idol out of our kids" around here. The sin of pride is insidious. It takes good things (like the desire for a good marriage, kids who obey, excelling at anything) and makes it into an idol .... our desire and expectations raised higher than a righteous and holy God who *just may* have a different plan for us so as to expose our sin and sanctify us further. But no, we'll have none of that when it reflects badly on us and our "fragile" egos. Humility? It's feigned at times but when our "inner judge" emerges, it's ... well ... inconVENient. And besides, remember, I'm right you know ... so ... ok ... uh huh ... yea.

Anonymous said...

.... oh, and by the way Zach, Taylor won, fair and square as we used to say. You stated in your rules review that "the first one to 20 wins". Sounds like the sudden death rule to me. I was starting to cheer when Taylor got to 20 because I thought that was the end of the match, but it went on. Taylor clearly got to 20 first so changing the rules at the end so you could tie him was .... kinda like ... you wanted to ... "it's Nielsen from the top of the key for the game winner ... YES" ... did you say you were *really* into basketball when you were younger? 8~}