My husband found your blog through the alimony reform people in Florida (he is a payer – don’t get me started on THAT). I think he is sick of hearing me complain about my problem because he told me to write you.
Basically there is a mother of one of my daughter’s volleyball teammates who is driving me crazy. Our girls started playing together years ago at our health club. Now they are both sophomores in high school and both have made the varsity team – they are really good.
As a result of our girls growing up together playing volleyball, I have known this woman fairly well for years and I consider her a causal friend/acquaintance. However she has recently been doing some things that really bother me.
Most important, my daughter is a better player than hers and as a result, the coach plays her more often (they both play middle blocker). She has begun to complain VERY loudly about this to everyone, including me. It’s embarrassing and I don’t know what to say.
In addition, when her daughter is playing, she becomes one of “those” parents and yells and screams at the coach, the ref, her daughter and the other players.
The coach sat her down last week and said this has to stop but so far it hasn’t. Should I say something to her? It’s especially weird for me when she complains about my daughter getting playing time!
Dear Volleyball Mama:
Oh boy – the obnoxious parent of a kid on a team. We’ve all seen these people and wanted to smash them in the face.
(The making of a future serial killer)
I personally don’t have this problem because I purposefully raised my son to eschew team sports. It’s not that I have any moral or political issue with team sports, it’s just that I don’t care to schlub around on Saturday and Sunday mornings watching little people chase a ball or do whatever it is these kids do.
Basically, I’m lazy. But I do have friends who have told me they struggle with this same problem and I also have access to the Internet, so I deem myself worthy to give you advice on this matter.
I’ll start with a few observations about these parents and then get to my advice. Please remain patient as I enthrall you with my wisdom and keen observations about PALS (Parents Acting Like Shits).
1. I think parents spend much more time and money on children’s sports than they used to. Some of my friends tell me they spend thousands of dollars each year for equipment, traveling, and the like. When your kids play multiple sports it really adds up.
(I highly recommend this book, not because it is particularly insightful or even because I have read it – I have not – but because you get a little giggle every time you read the author’s name.)
Back to my point, and there was a point, when you have parents making such huge financial and time investments in these kids, emotions run higher than they probably would if it cost $15 to play for a season and they only played in-town on the weekends.
2. Many of the PALS have invested not only time and money but also their egos in their child’s participation in sports. This is pathetic and wrong but it’s true: some parents want to live vicariously through their children and they feel the losses and the wins as much or more than the children themselves do.
What’s really sad is they don’t understand how awful that kid feels when they see their parent behaving in this way and that certainly can’t help performance. I cringe for these poor kids whose parents see them as an appendage via which they can relive their glory days or make them up altogether if they were nonathletic losers like me in high school.
3. Some PALS have a win-at-all-costs attitude about their kids’ sports and as a result they can’t help but see the other parents and children as competition. This can lead to rude and unfortunate behavior such as what you described. What does this woman expect you to do, go to the coach and ask him to give your daughter less playing time?
I understand that it must be very difficult to go through the emotional ups and downs that accompany watching your children on the playing field. What I do not understand is humiliating yourself and your child by being an obnoxious prick (or prickette).
I’ve got a meeting with an online magazine soon so I have to shorten this up. Here we go with the advice:
1. Be direct and tell her you are proud of your daughter and you find the conversation about playing time inappropriate. Remind her that your girls came up together and probably feel awkward already about the competition for playing time.
There is no need for her to make it worse. As parents you should both be proud that they have made the varsity team as sophomores and celebrate that accomplishment rather than bitching about playing time.
2. I would also tell her that you are worried her daughter may be embarrassed and ashamed by her behavior. Don’t expect that to solve any problems though, because I’ve been told this several times and I just keep on keeping’ on…
3. You should speak with the coach and encourage him to do something about this woman. It’s really part of his job to communicate and manage expectations of the players and their parents, and he may not be doing a great job at that right now. Or maybe he is, and she is just an obtuse and highly disagreeable person. If that is the case:
4. Do your own sneaky (and highly illegal) version of a red card: slip a roofie in her Starbucks the next time you see her at practice or a game. If you can’t change the person and their lousy behavior, at least you can lower the volume. It’s really a public service.
Good luck and let me know if things improve!