My son's fifth-grade flag football team was playing
an away game very early in the season. I arrived, excited to cheer my son's
team in a sport he has played for several years.
As I sat down on the bleachers, I was chatting with other parents
when the game started. Within minutes, I held my breath as the crowd fell silent, waiting to see if my son—the running back—would catch a long pass.
Just then, a dad from our team, who was sitting near me, yelled at
my son, "Hey, keep your eye on the ball. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? UGH!" My son (and everyone else) heard this dad, and
I saw the disappointment in my son's eyes.
"How dare you yell at my son for dropping a pass," I leaned
over to the dad. "HOW DARE YOU!"
"Yeah, whatever!" the dad responded, a mean glint in his
Furious, I continued the conversation.
"You have no right to yell at my son like that," I said,
tears welling up in my eyes.
The dad was unapologetic. I was confrontational. We
exchanged heated words.
As the game played on, I walked away to find a quiet place
to compose myself. I'd lost my cool with a jerk during a kid's football game.
The dad's wife arrived late and heard about the dispute. She
came over to where I was standing, apologizing profusely for her husband's
I dried my eyes and returned to my seat, unable to focus on
the game. My son, however, had quickly moved past the dad's unkind words and
played his heart out.
I'm not happy about my unwillingness to ignore another
parent yelling at my son. Despite my firm belief that it is never acceptable to
yell at anyone's kid during a game, I wish I'd stayed quiet. Sportsmanship is
taught to kids, but adults, including me, should model it.
Then, as luck would have it, my son scored the winning
touchdown, landing right in front of the dad. I stood up and cheered loudly
along with the rest of our team's parents. At that moment, my son demonstrated
the kind of sportsmanship that makes me proud.
I learned an important lesson by making a mistake I won't
repeat again. I engaged another parent in a verbal confrontation during a game.
No matter how inappropriate his behavior was, mine wasn't right either. Now,
when I go to my son's soccer or basketball or baseball or football games, I
make a mental note to stay away from the parents who yell at their kids and
other people's kids. I sit with parents I know who are supportive of all the kids,
not just their own. I take photos of the team. I sit quietly.