By Jay D. Prince
For the past 16 years, I’ve spent a lot of time writing and talking about a subject that makes me roll my eyes and cringe every time it comes up. This morning, however, I took a phone call from someone who was calling to cancel their membership in U.S. SQUASH. After explaining that the woman I was speaking with would have to call the Association offices directly, I asked if she or her family/children were no longer playing squash.
Her response was simple and pointed: “Two of my kids are now playing college squash, but my 16-year-old has decided to quit because he can’t stand the parents of so many junior players.” Ah… psycho parents are the problem.
As with all youth sports, it only takes a couple of over-zealous parents to taint the image of all parents attending their children’s sporting activities. I’ve seen it in baseball, basketball, and squash. And don’t even get me started on tennis—I was active in junior tennis as a player in my youth and as a publisher before starting this magazine; squash parents have nothing on their tennis brethren!
I’m sorry, but it’s incredibly disturbing to hear of a child quitting a game because of things going on OUTSIDE THE COURT. That’s pathetic and embarrassing. Sadly, I really wasn’t shocked to hear about it.
The truth is that most parents are wonderful when it comes to supporting their offspring on the squash court. But the crazy parents who berate officials, criticize kids who are refereeing matches, chew out their own kids between games or after matches or anything else unbecoming of being a positive influence—there ought to be an easy way to remove them from the venue. Frankly, it’s appalling.
I know there is a “junior guide” that is produced by U.S. Squash, which is all well and good. My personal opinion is that all sports parents should be required to watch the movie, “Searching for Bobby Fischer.” It’s a movie about youth competitive chess; but even more pertinent, it’s a movie about what it means to be a psycho parent and what happens to our kids when they are subjected to pressure being put on them by us.
The other step I’ve informally proposed for years is to produce a true “Junior Closed” event—CLOSED to parents! Period! Drop your kids off at the club in the morning and pick them up in the evening. While I know parents want to watch their kids play the games they love, another sad truth is that a lot of kids would rather NOT have their parents around the courts. The reason? Because they take the fun out of the game.
Several years ago, while coaching baseball, I had a young boy on a team who was struggling mightily in all facets of the game. But what struck me most was that every time he swung at a pitch (and usually missed), he’d turn around and look at his dad sitting in the stands barking out instruction—and criticism. Meanwhile, he had me in the third base coach’s box helping him, and my assistant coach on the other side of the diamond. Top that off with his own thoughts swirling around in his head and that kid was a wreck.
So one evening I started searching the internet for something to send to the boy’s parent. What I found was a letter posted by a member of the US Men’s Fastpitch team recalling an experience from his days in youth baseball. The gist of it was that he was having a miserable experience because his dad was overstepping his bounds as a parent. They ultimately agreed to approach the baseball games with a rule: “fans”, which include anyone outside the filed, are not allowed to coach (just cheer); “players” are anyone on the field including coaches, players and umpires. That changed everything for them.
So the next time you are at a match to support your son or daughter, try taking that approach. Help your kids have a great experience by letting their play be just that—theirs!
I sincerely hope I never again hear about a kid quitting because of the behavior of parents. That’s not right!