I’ve written before about parents and coaches and kids’ sports and how nasty it seems these events can get. Abby has posted coaches’ pleas for parents to behave themselves, along with codes of conduct (and another). Parents have written to the columnists wondering how their kids turned into such bad sports, etc. But this week, I learned about a new low in children’s athletics spectating etiquette humanity, and it didn’t come from the columns, but from my family’s own experience.
My cousin, J., will be 10 in May–she’s hilarious, happy-go-lucky, and one of my most favorite people. J. plays on a YMCA girls’ basketball team in Denver, CO, and her game last weekend was the scene of this debacle.
J. does her own thing, for sure. For one thing, she’s the only member of our extended family with any interest in playing sports (and the motor skills to do so). Literally since she was able to express a preference (about 2 years old), J’s opted for jeans, t-shirts, and short hair over dresses, skirts, and ponytails. I remember when she was just learning to talk, if you told her she or something she was wearing was “cute,” she’d respond with “not cute, cool!”
So at the last game, J’s team won by a bundle (yay!) but during the course of the competition, both the opposing coach and parents of kids on that team made repeated snide remarks that the winners had cheated by having 2 boys on their team. I’m sure you’re connecting the dots here–because J. and one of her teammates don’t look and dress like the other little girls on the team, many of the adults (oooh, would we call them adults?) at the game assumed they were boys–and beyond that, became insistent and insulting when corrected.
Things escalated quickly. Nasty words were spoken. Things got physical–no one was hurt, but someone’s cap was knocked off. There was an arrest. There was a suspension. The whole thing was a shameful display of Adults–some thoughtless, some downright cruel–Behaving very Badly. Grown ups insulting each other’s children in front of their own children? Actively passing on their own prejudices and assumptions to their kids? At a kid’s recreational event? It just doesn’t get much lower or uglier than that, etiquette-wise, or, um, person-wise.
Despite being mortified and scared by the whole thing, I hear J. has bounced back well, and her mom is actively rallying friends in the area to come out to their game on February 6, when they’ll have to play this same team again. So if you’re in the Denver area, would you think about stopping by (Feb. 6th @ 11:00 am. 1551 S. Monroe St., Denver) to cheer for J’s team and coach, and demonstrate to “the others,” and the kidoodles, what it means to be a respectful spectator and a good sport? I wish I could be there.