Any parent of any sports-mad kid will have witnessed it, and this week the problem was met head on.
South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin, incensed by a recent incident at his son’s basketball match, voiced his thoughts on the parents who continually berate officials and try to coach from the stands.
In Sky Sports’ #supporttherefweek a survey from the U.K. broadcaster and the Football Association found a lack of respect for referees at elite level was encouraging poor behavior at grassroots level.
In a survey of 2,905 grassroots soccer officials, 91% believe the apparent lack of respect for elite level referees is a “big or fairly big problem” for grassroots officials and the behavior towards them.
Also, 78% felt parents’ criticism of refs was a “big or fairly big problem” – and that leads perfectly on to the point that Martin made in his recent press conference – a clip that has gone viral.
It’s a must-watch couple of minutes for any parent on the damaging effects their actions can have on the very ones they claim to be helping.
Spurred by seeing a parent “losing his mind” in a 4th grade basketball game, Martin – a fiery presence on the sidelines when coaching – highlighted the problem head on and urged parents to keep quiet.
“I know this: I’m probably the most animated coach that you’ve probably ever seen when my team’s playing. I go watch my kids play, I don’t say boo. I don’t wave my arms, I don’t try to coach my kids,” said Martin in a news conference transcribed by The State.
‘I sit in the stands and I don’t say a word’
“With all due respect to most parents out there, I probably know more about basketball than most of them, OK. But I sit in the stands and I don’t say a word. There’s two guys refereeing a fourth-grade game on a Sunday morning. What could they possibly be making? 20 bucks a game?
“I used to do that. I used to make 12 dollars for 10-and-under, 15 for 15-and-under, and 17 or 18 bucks for high school-age kids. OK, so on a Sunday morning instead of being at church, those guys are out there trying to make a couple bucks, to pay their bills, feed their families.
“Do you think they really care what fourth-grade team wins? Do you really think that they like sat at home and said, ‘Oh I can’t wait to officiate that game tomorrow, because that one team, I can’t wait to get that 10-year-old kid and embarrass him in front of people.’
“Do you really think that’s what they’re doing? I don’t try to tell my kid how they should play. You know what I tell my two boys when they come at me, ‘Why are you asking me, man? I didn’t run your practice, go talk to your coach.’ ‘But ah —’ ‘don’t talk about your coach in front of me, because if you are then you’re not playing basketball.’
“You don’t understand why you didn’t play better? Go talk to your coach. I’m not your coach, I’m your dad. Somebody disrespects you, then I’m here. If you fail, good, deal with it, I’m gonna help you get up. But don’t come talk to me about coaching. I do this for a living, man. I’m not going to criticize a guy that’s trying to help you.
“And then the other part — so that’s the officials. Do you think those coaches coaching fourth-grade kids are making any money?
‘Yelling at the kids – they’re 10 years old, man!’
“So there’s someone that’s giving up their personal time on a Sunday, for free, to help other people’s children, yet, we’re gonna have the adults in the stands yelling obscenities at the officials? Criticizing every decision the coach makes?
“Yelling at the kids, like the kids — they’re 10 years old, man! Like if they’re a LeBron James and Dwyane Wade playing in the NBA Finals, like they know how to handle their coach over here and their parent over here yelling at them. Then we wonder why kids get confused man, why kids rebel, why kids don’t know how to listen. How can you listen when you’ve got so many voices in your head at the same the time. You know what life teaches you? Shut things off.
“And that’s the part that’s frustrating to me, if someone wants to be so animated when there’s a basketball game going on, then go coach the team, go run practices, show up everyday at 6 o’clock at night and run an hour-and-a-half practice.”
Martin’s concerns are obviously not limited to basketball and the results from Sky Sports’ survey, referred to earlier, is a prime example of the damage that is being done in soccer by over-zealous parents.
Martin though believes that questioning authority is a problem in society, and certainly not limited to sport.
“It’s not a basketball thing, it’s a societal thing — where we’re always questioning authority,” Martin said later.
“We feel it’s our responsibility to get loud and create a scene, especially in front of young kids. When kids see that, they think they can question authority as well.”
Martin, who has extensive coaching experience, and says he has witnessed parents facing off on the court in front of children, believes it will eventually lead to a serious incident occurring.
“And something really scary can happen,” he added. “That’s my biggest fear. Kids deserve better.”