I’ll never forget the day.
I was a junior in college in the spring of 1989, the sun was shining and it was one of the first warm days of the year. My buddy and I had picked up some lunch—Wendy’s in case you’re interested—and were heading back to our house when we drove past a youth baseball game. On a whim, we decided to stop and enjoy the weather while we ate.
We weren’t there long when a crazy obnoxious parent became all we could focus on. He was standing outside the fence in right field, completely isolated from everyone else, and was screaming off and on. To be honest, I don’t even remember if he was yelling at the umpires, or if he was yelling at his own child—I think it was the latter. It was an unbelievable sight.
And then I looked a little closer. And I realized I knew him.
This was a guy that I had seen countless times and he had always been the consummate professional. What I was watching was so out of character that I had a hard time believing what I was seeing with my own eyes. To this day, every time his name comes up I think back to the day when I lost complete respect for him.
That day I made a vow to my friend. I said, “Once I have kids, I’m going to go to at least one game a year where my kids aren’t playing and watch how the parents act just to remind myself not to act like this.”
I may have used a few more colorful words, but that was the gist of what I said.
This year is roughly the 12th year that I’ve been watching my own kids play, and I’ve made good on the promise. And it probably was the best advice I ever gave myself.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the emotions of watching your child play. You want them to be successful. You’re afraid if they mess up people will look down on them…and you. You want them to smile. You want them to win.
When an official misses a call that affects someone else’s child, it’s easy to shrug it off. When it affects your child? Not so easy to look the other way.
I’ve been far from perfect over the years. As a coach and a spectator, I’ve yelled at officials from time to time. I’ve gotten frustrated with my child’s coaches. I’ve gotten angry at my own children, and voiced my displeasure with them.
But for the most part, I’ve handled things pretty well. Going to watch games in which my kids weren’t playing has been a great reality check. When you remove yourself from the emotions, it’s pretty easy to tell right from wrong. I’ve watched how people act at these games and I can recall myself doing similar things. It’s not exactly a great feeling.
What’s a much better feeling is when you feel yourself starting to open your mouth, and then remembering those moments of reflection, and stopping yourself.
Sometimes, the 21-year-old version of myself was a lot smarter than I am now. I’m glad he gave me that advice.