Yesterday I witnessed a fight and a hockey game broke out (rimshot).
No – what really happened was that I got to see how ugly we as parents can become when we take youth sports entirely too seriously.
Prior to the game my son was to play at a rink in Tampa, FL, a couple of kids got into a fight on the ice. Actually, three kids got into the same fight after some “chippy” play that was allowed to continue with no penalty for a good two periods or so of play.
Before it was all over, several kids were thrown out of the game, as well as a few coaches.
Ugly enough, to be sure.
But it got even worse.
While all of the bruhaha was happening on the ice, some parents in the stands started putting their hands on each other. And before it was all said and done, three sheriffs deputies were summoned to the rink to remove the people who were fighting in the stands.
What was I doing?
Trying to find my son so that I could make sure he was not in harm’s way. He had just headed to the locker room moments before, quite near to the stands where all of the fighting had broken out. With raw emotions like that out into the open, one never knows what people will do – and I didn’t want him somewhere where he could be “collateral damage” if things went from worse to tragically so.
I found my oldest son, but not before almost being bowled over with my four year old by one of the participants of the fight in the stand (a “lady”) on her way to call the cops.
All this, in the span of about five minutes, at a hockey game for 9 and 10 year old kids.
The ingredients for all of this were several:
- A pair of refs – one of who was in his late fifties / early sixties – who clearly were letting rough play get out of hand (there is no “checking” at this age of play in travel hockey).
- A pair of teams were playing who are having non-winning seasons, half-way in, in a physical game tied at 1-1 when all the trouble broke out.
- A kid that had been “checked” one too many times with no sanction.
- Coaches that allowed the moment to get the best of them.
- Parents in the stands who projected the play of their kids on their personal self worth.
- Forgetting that there is never – NEVER – a justification for one parent putting their hands on another spectator at a children’s sports event. Period.
I guess I could get all touchy-feely and throw in the stress of the holidays and the economy, too.
But in reality, we as parents often place way too much emphasis on equating the performance of our kids with how others perceive us.
At then end of the day, youth team sports are supposed to teach our kids how to compete fairly, how to prepare physically and mentally, how to play together as a team, and how to be gracious whether winning or losing.
Yesterday was anything but Child’s Play.
But it did provide an excellent teachable moment – and sad reminder – that many of us never grow up.