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Bird Brown: Bad behavior turning sports into rotten eggs

I read a short story this week that went something like this.

A teenage boy comes down to breakfast where his mother is making him his favorite eggs. When he sees her cooking the eggs, he begins to frantically push and (excuse the pun) egg her on with comments like, “Come on, mom, be careful. Mom, you’re burning the eggs. Mom please don’t burn the eggs. Mom, I said don’t burn the eggs.”

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At this point, mom gets frustrated with her teenage son and says, “Son, I got this. I think that I’ve made a few eggs in my time so I know what I’m doing.”

The boy replies, “OK, good. I just wanted you to see how I feel at my soccer games.”

Boom.

Why are we like that? What has changed over the last few decades where parents have become so engrossed in our kid’s sporting lives that we feel we need to coach them over their coaches, ref them over their refs, and even feel like we should be playing for our kids when they’re not doing “what they’re supposed to do?”

My parents came to every one of our games that they could possibly make. Never once, not one single time, did I ever hear either parent yell anything at me, at my coach, or at the officials. The only time I ever heard any yelling was because my dad would have the Redskins game on the transistor radio.

I know that the time that I played soccer many parents didn’t know the rules or anything about the game so most everyone was quiet in the stands.

But, I also played basketball, baseball and lacrosse growing up and I really don’t remember anyone’s parents ever yelling anything during those games either. Somewhere between my parents’ generation and mine, and then every generation since has felt the need to insert ourselves in to the fabric of the game.

Is it the money? There is a tremendous amount of money involved in professional athletics. There are even millions of dollars in youth athletics (although not accessible to the players). Now with the NCAA allowing for student-athletes to be compensated for the use of their likeness in promoting games and other products, the money becomes even more enticing to some.

But, even in the big dollar sports like football and basketball, there are still only a handful of athletes that will significantly benefit from the new rules.

If you check NCAA.org, there’s a really cool spreadsheet that shows the probability of a high school athlete moving on to play in the college ranks. I can see where my hope could increase if my high school child was playing either men’s or women’s ice hockey, who place 12.1% and 25% on a collegiate roster. Other than that, your son or daughter’s chance of making a collegiate roster are minimal including soccer (5.5%, 7.1%), baseball/softball (7.1%, 5.5%), basketball (3.4%, 4.0%), and volleyball (3.5%, 3.9%).

It gets even less likely that your superstar son or daughter will make the move beyond the collegiate level to play for a professional sports team.

Besides ice hockey (I guess my kids should have been playing hockey all these years) and baseball which are both around 6-7% that move from NCAA to professional sports, the other professional sport offerings show less than 2% of NCAA athletes moving on to make money playing the sport they love.

I don’t really know if it’s money, prestige, pride, or whatever else we could possibly be thinking we’re getting out of our kids’ participation in youth sports. What I do know is if we as parents don’t change our behavior at these contests, then we will continue to lose players and officials from participating in sports because of unruly parent behavior, both of which are quitting the game at alarming rates. Eighty percent of high school officials quit before their third year. Eighty!

Because we had an early exit from the playoffs I was able to go and support some other county teams in their playoff quests, but this could easily have happened (and probably did) on our sidelines and I know it happens in every single contest in every possible sport across the country.

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One game I sat on each side during the contest and the other I stood with some friends in a neutral area. After the second game I watched I even apologized to the officials that were officiating the game for what they had to endure during that contest.

Basically I learned 27 new ways to tell the refs, “You suck.”

Hopefully none of their kids or family members were there to witness that.

We’re not bad people. In fact, I’d just say the opposite. Many people who are berating the officials and yelling at their kids and others are the same ones who volunteer their time and resources to the very thing they disrupt with their behavior.

There’s just something wrong in our sports culture that needs to be fixed.

The best work advice I ever got was from my first boss, Carl Pollard at Carroll County Bank & Trust, who told me to “Keep your ears open and your mouth shut.”

The next time you’re at a sporting event, try that on for size. It will be eye-opening.

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