Bad parenting on display in HBO Sports documentary

Parents living their lives through their kids' athletic careers are spotlighted in debut of new HBO sports series.

I have covered high school sports around here for more than 30 years and have come to know my share of parents who have lost a sense of reality when it comes to their own child's athletic career.

But even I haven't encountered too many as out of control as the ones depicted in HBO's "State of Play: Trophy Kids." It debuted on Dec. 4 and still has a few airings left on HBO and is available on "HBO Go."

The documentary, the first in the very promising "State of Play" series, asks the question: Are we pushing our kids too far?

Then it goes on to answer its own question with a resounding "yes," at least when it comes to the fathers of a budding golfer and basketball and football players, and a tennis mom who believes it is "God's will" to push her child in extraordinary ways.

What struck me as I watched the excessively obnoxious behavior of the parents is how did executive producer Peter Berg of Friday Night Lights fame get access to them?

Why did they allow the cameras so close to reveal their abusive relationships? Are they so disillusioned that they thought the cameras would provide a flattering portrayal of them as they nurtured their children toward sports stardom?

It was frankly uncomfortable to watch at times as several of them continually berated their kids with words not suitable for a normal family audience.

I've said for years that many — not all — but too many parents are living their lives through their kids and the pressure they put on their kids, their kids' coaches and even the game officials is unhealthy for all concerned. It's to the point where I worry about the future of youth and high school sports.

Many parents not only take the fun out of sports, but chase their kids away because of the burnout the youngsters experience from the constant pressure of pleasing pop while pursuing that college scholarship.

The parents invest so much time and money on their kids, often with unrealistic goals, that they lose their way along with their sanity.

The very first comments in the documentary are telling.

"As a parent you need to be realistic in your beliefs about your child," said Andre, the father of the young female golfer named Amari.

Then in the next sentence, the father proves he's unrealistic when he says: "Our plan as a family for Amari is simply to get her to the LPGA tour. I know Amari's the one. I know she has everything it's going to take to be that superstar golfer, I know it. There's no question."

Then later the same father shows he's out of touch when he yells at Amari: "Dammit, just hit the ball close to the hole!"

Your heart goes out to Amari when she pleads with him to "Stop!"

Then there's the father of the basketball player named Derek who makes it clear that a "scholarship to a Division I school is the goal."

He admits that he used to run nine businesses with 80 employees, but hasn't worked a day since 2000 to devote his life to his son's basketball career. He also said he sent his kids to the best of camps and provided the best trainers to the tune of the cost of "two Lamborghinis."

It's it any wonder that he's a complete nut when it comes to his kid's career?

He also admitted that he was giving his kid 20 to 25 pills a day to boost his strength and size.

The worst, though, was the father of a football player named Justus who was relentless in his beratement and continually said to the kid "You just don't get it," when it was clear that he didn't.





Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Google Plus
  • RSS Feeds
  • Mobile Alerts and Apps