By Marissa Scott
You see a young kid go up to the mat to start his wrestling match. You can hear the whole crowd chanting each of their names, waiting for them to do something spectacular, like they usually do. You see them sweating, and the look on their faces seems overwhelmed. Finally, the match starts, and in just a mere 20 seconds, one of the kids is pinned on the ground in defeat. His dad starts screaming at him, “We have talked about this so many times, I told you not to do that! We talked about your moves.” He then yanks his terrified and defeated kid by the arm off the mat in complete rage.
For many parents whose children are involved in competitive sports at a young age, this type of scenario may have happened right in front of them at one point. For Rett Hicks, the president of a pop warner football organization in Santa Clarita, this situation was a reality. At a wrestling match his son was competing in, he saw the opponent’s dad scream and get violent with his son after he lost his wrestling match.
“What’s horrifying is that my son will beat a kid in a tournament, and you have a father berating his son after the fact,” said Hicks. “To have a dad push his 9-year-old son, or grab his shirt and say ‘what the hell is wrong with you?’ because he lost a match is completely horrifying, and I see it all the time.”
Hicks, a pop warner football coach and sports dad, is used to hearing and seeing parents yell at their kids for not winning or playing well enough to their liking.
The sports helicopter parents, as many like to call it, are the parents who are too involved in their child’s sports life. Each parent’s motivation is different, but the main reasons are either the parents are oblivious to their child’s actual abilities or they are living their dream of being a professional athlete through their children.
“Are there dad’s out their that are pushing their kids for scholarships that are unrealistic and their demanding when their kids don’t do what they want them to do? Absolutely,” said Hicks.
The helicopter parent behavior in sports doesn’t only happen in football and wrestling, it happens in many sports and it happens to kids of all ages and gender.
“There are parents of kids on her [his daughter] volleyball team who think their kids should play every single second of the game,” said Garrett Hooper, a father of three athletes. “They yell and scream at the coach because they are essentially blinded by their kid’s real life abilities.”
The idea of obsessive sports parents was not mentioned by mainstream media until the recently. Television shows such as Trophy Kids and Friday Night Tykes have been produced about the types of obsessive parents who force their kids into playing and excelling at different sports.
Trophy Kids, an HBO documentary, follows a handful of over-obsessive parents who have invested a plethora of time, money, and energy into their kids sports careers.
A majority of the parents’ yell at their kids or the coach, but some of them get physically violent. There have been a few widely known instances where the parent went as far as physical violence with their kid or the coach.
Sean Combs, also known as P Diddy, was arrested in 2015 for assaulting his son’s UCLA football coach with a kettlebell after he reprimanded his son during a practice.
Bill Plaschke, a sports writer for the Los Angeles Times, recently shined a spotlight on a dad who pushed his kid so hard during sports while he was growing up, that he was diagnosed with a disease that causes him to be in constant pain. The father mentions his regrets about how he shouldn’t have pushed his child to permanent fatigue.
“Everybody cheered him so much, I felt like they were cheering for me,” the father told LA Times. “I loved it. I loved the power of it.”
Whether the reason is to live their sports dreams through their kids or their unrealistic vision of their kid’s abilities, obsessive sports parents are in denial of their problem until reality one day hits them.
Parental support in their children’s sport is very important, but being overly obsessive and aggressive can cause hatred and fights between them.
Because the media is shedding light on the topic, helicopter sports parents are frowned upon and often thought of as terrible parents.