By Guest Blogger John (J.P.) Mundy
Dear Future Me,
Congratulations! I see where Riley made the team. I know you’re so proud of him. Putting him in that basketball program they offered at day care really paid off, didn’t it? When is his first game- Friday? I know, I know- you’re excited. Calm down. I’ve got some stuff to tell you.
As you know, I (We, Us, Whatever) became a sportswriter back when Riley was months old. Remember? We didn’t want to have to answer Riley when he eventually asked, “What did you want to be when you grew up?” I sure as hell didn’t want to say “Data Analyst” so we chased our dreams. And you know what? We got more than we ever dreamed of.
We worked three ACC Tournaments, sitting courtside working for a national website. We sat in the luxurious press box at Wake Forest football games, working in the same room as our journalism heroes and asking questions about the golden age of sports writing. Finally we became newspapermen, covering high school sports across Guilford and Forsyth County.
And boy, did we see some…stuff.
I’m not talking on the playing field, either, homie. It was hard sitting up in those tiny gyms and press boxes, watching and listening to “grownups”. They yelled, they cursed, and they took things way too seriously. In fact, we interviewed many a young man (and woman) who wished their folks in the stands would just shut up.
That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.
If you’re going to be a sports parent, Riley’s sports parent, there are going to have to be some rules. These, my friend, are non-negotiable.
No. 1: Thou shalt not use the word “We” when referring to Riley’s team.
It’s Riley’s team, and don’t you forget it. Just because you plunked down money for uniforms and equipment and bring a cooler full of orange slices and water to games doesn’t make you a team member. “We” didn’t beat the Hawks on Friday night, Riley’s team did. Also, college and pro athletes hate fans who use “We”. You did not practice or play in the game, you are not a member of the team. Shut it.
No. 2: Thou shalt not coach Riley from your seat. Shut your mouth.
The great basketball coach Pat Summitt recalled being at her son’s soccer game one time and getting angry because she didn’t think he was aggressive enough. When she confronted him at halftime and asked why he was doing what he was doing, her son replied, “Because my coach told me to.” Horrified, she implored him to do exactly what his coach told him. Shut your mouth.
No. 3: Thou shalt not say one word to the referees. Not one. Shut up.
Those guys make maybe 50 bucks a day reffing games. They do not pay their rent with refereeing cash. And for 50 bucks, they are continuously berated and criticized for hours on end simply because you think your little darling is being treated unfairly. For that type of money, you better be grateful they even showed up. Even if they suck, bite your tongue. This isn’t the NBA Finals.
No. 4: Thou shalt not ask the coach about Riley’s playing time. Rather, ask what Riley can do to improve and see the floor more often.
Reality check: If Riley is good enough to play, or practicing well enough to play, he’s going to play. The coach is going to put in the team that he/she thinks gives the best chance to win. Sure, politics and favoritism exist, but the coach wants to win first and foremost. If you feel like Riley has been wronged, ask other coaches for their opinion. DO NOT ask other parents. Most of all, shut up.
Finally, No. 5: Your number one job is to be his number one advocate. Thou shalt be, above all else a dad.
Remember that day in the ultrasound tech’s room? Do you remember openly weeping when you found out Riley was a boy? Well, Riley is YOUR boy, whether he plays sports or not. You put him into sports because studies show that they teach leadership and teamwork, and because you wanted him to be a part of something. He is NOT there to fulfill any of your own missed opportunities or to win trophies that look good on a shelf.
So when he gets in the car with you after a game, with a gleam or tears in his eyes, remember this:
Shut up and listen. And be a dad.