A recently published study by a Harvard sociologist finds that while all parents may be slightly crazy — and indeed, crazy parent is arguably a redundant tag — hockey parents are the nuttiest.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support such a claim. That said, having sat on the sidelines of innumerable youth competitions — everything from hockey to track and field and even indoor rowing — I don’t believe any one sport is worse than another when it comes to moms and dads losing what little is left of their minds.
Sure, anyone who has spent much time in arenas can tell hockey horror stories.
One year the DeMeer boys played on a team with a troubled youngster whose father recorded every game, and then reviewed the video for his son in the lobby. You should have won that foot race. You were out of position. You should have passed here. You should have shot there.
I wanted to videotape the father, showing the video to his son, and then play it for him in front of the rest of the parents. You should have pointed out he made a great play here. You should not have used that tone of voice there. You should not be allowed to own a video camera, or a pet, or a houseplant. You should have a vasectomy.
Violence in minor hockey is not limited to the ice and the players. Dads attack coaches at the concession stand over ice time. Moms trip players from opposing teams as they enter the dressing room. Once I witnessed a very respected businessman from the community hurl a full cup of Tim Hortons coffee at a referee, hitting him in the head.
Another afternoon a mom from our team leaned forward and whispered that she had just taught her child the trick of getting the end of his stick up and inside the chest protector of another player, in order to get a better shot at cracking his ribs.
“It’s my birthday today,” she confided. “I told him that could be his present to me.”
The only time I was personally assaulted at the arena had nothing to do with hockey. It was my first and only experience with competitive figure skating.
In many ways figure skating is the opposite of hockey. Hockey parents push the kid farther, and harder. Make the team with most A’s attached. Play at the highest level.
Figure skating moms and their coaches have a different strategy. They often hold a skater back divisions so he or she can skate against a less challenging field and have a better chance of reaching the podium.
There is an intriguing comment on our differing approaches to the genders in there, somewhere.
At one figure skating competition our home club asked me to be dressing room captain. It is the captain’s job to greet incoming skaters, get them settled in their assigned rooms, confirm ice times and generally direct traffic.
I was backed against the corridor wall by pushy, bleach-headed women. An especially aggressive mother tore the clipboard from my confused hands. She ripped off her daughter’s room assignment and thrust the clipboard into my midriff with painful force.
Any study that claims hockey parents are the craziest of all sports moms and dads underestimates the passions surrounding sports in other cultures. In other words, it’s quite a “white” assertion.
In Ontario the eldest DeMeer son played competitive soccer. At these games it was easy to appreciate that many parents regard soccer with the same intensity some of us are used to experiencing only at the rink. And their behaviour is no better
The most surprising stress I ever experienced at a competitive youth event was during a chess tournament. Sure, everyone has heard about those out-of-control chess parents.
The youngest of the DeMeer offspring could routinely beat me at chess when he was in Grade One. As the local school district offered a chess club he got involved in tournament play.
At a youth chess tournament parents are allowed to stand behind their children, as close as they want, although they cannot speak and they cannot touch the players.
During one match I observed a small man hovering over his son’s shoulder, and he simply vibrated. He made subtle jerky motions, like a nervous passenger.
The sweat poured off father and son and the attempt at telepathy was so apparent it was practically audible. The tension at that table was a real, living, breathing thing. Dad scribbled notes. Inside he was screaming and banging on the glass.
Twice in elementary school the DeMeer whiz kid qualified to play at the provincial championships. Twice he declined. He said playing chess like that was “no fun.”
Praise be. Maybe competition really does teach kids something other than that their parents are crazy.
Andrea Demeer is the associate publisher/editor for the
Similkameen Spotlight and Keremeos Review – both Black Press newspapers.