As the mom of two athletic teenagers (and a former competitive swimmer myself), I’ve been to a lot of kid sports games. Baseball. Soccer. Basketball. Swimming. Water Polo. And although the sports activity and venue may differ, I’ve come to realize there is the same set of parent “types” sitting in the stands at every game. They’re categorized as such.
The Overly-Helpful Parent
This parent is the back-seat driver at the game, with no designated coach authority role but with an overwhelming urge to continually shout advice. They might draw on their ‘expertise’ from a sport they participated in 20 years ago, or incessantly regurgitate tips they picked up someplace. They do have great intentions, though, and feel their ‘constructive feedback’ just enhances what the coach is saying—even when it doesn’t.
The Social-Butterfly Parent
This parent seems to know everything about everybody outside (and inside) of the game, and can chat about basically anything with great zeal. They know the backstory on every player, what’s happening after the game, the latest school buzz or trends, and might even find out what you had for breakfast. And depending on your mood, you avoid or embrace them.
The Silent-Silo Parent
You’ll typically find these parents far, far away from the social-butterfly parent – and deliberately so, as their sole mission is to, well, actually watch the game. They have laser-focus on what’s happening and are often so quiet that sometimes you don’t even know they’re there – until you see them post-game in the parking lot hurrying to their car.
The “Good-Try” Parent
Many of us appreciate these parents because they genuinely want every player to feel like a champ no matter what. Common sayings:
Good try, Johnnie!
Next time you’ll get it, Sarah!
It’s okay, you ALMOST made it!
And all that positive cheering and encouragement can feel really good. But when you hear a parent yell “good try” after the player accidentally puts the ball in the hoop of the opposing team, you have to wonder if her remaining silent might have been the better choice.
The Negative-Nellie (or Ned) Parent
Scowling, this parent watches the game through a cup-half-empty lens and loudly articulates perceived weaknesses, faults and failures. The players aren’t acting as a team. The other team is cheating. A kid isn’t paying attention. Somebody is hogging the ball. This type of parent likely needs more hugs and a reminder that sports is about children learning and growing while developing confidence and life skills. A negative attitude is contagious, but so is a positive one.
The Overinvolved-Volunteer Parent
You often see this parent more than anybody else at the game because they are constantly on-the-move: talking to the coach, passing out forms and jerseys, collecting fundraiser money, restocking the snack shack items, coordinating things, fixing things, etc. They don’t watch the sport because they’ve essentially become part of the sport.
The Helicopter Parent
You’ll see this type of parent more at the younger kids’ games. They hover at the end of the pool, towel opened wide, patiently waiting for their swimmer child to exit the water in 20 minutes from now. They continually pull their kid aside to correct some action or fix their uniform or give them a water bottle or to remind them to go fast (as if the child had planned on going slow). You won’t see these parents sitting in the stands…because they’re sitting with the team.
The Photographer Parent
We love these parents because we hope to reap the rewards: action images of our kids. There’s always that one parent holding a camera with a huge lens that we secretly wish we had, and continually moving, leaning, dodging, squatting and twisting to get that perfect picture. It’s like they’re playing their own sport.
The Passive-Aggressive Parent
If you hear backhanded compliments or anything like the following, chances are you’re sitting next to a skilled passive-aggressive parent:
When the refs start making good calls, we just might have a chance to win!
He’s playing well despite the fact he never shows up to practice!
Don’t worry, Joey; if your teammate had passed you the ball like he was supposed to, you would have made the goal!
In that case, you might just want to move to a different bleacher spot.
The Here-But-Not-Here Parent
These parents do everything except watch the game. They’re physically sitting or standing there, but they’re mentally elsewhere, meaning on their phone: browsing, reading, texting. But they always make sure to take a selfie with their kid to prove to the world they were…present.
No matter what type you are (and I confess I’ve probably been every type at some point!), the most seasoned parents will tell you how incredibly fast time flies. Appreciate the moments when you can watch your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews overcome challenges, learn from mistakes and work towards their goals. Be in the moment, cheer for them, celebrate them because I promise they’ll remember those short chunks of time with you for a very long time.