I spend my weekends surrounded by fans. This weekend, there were fans in my family room watching Thanksgiving football. There were cheering and jeering fans at Buffalo Wild Wings and there were fans at each of the hockey games I attended too.
The thing is, I’m a pretty pathetic fan.
I don’t do all the things that fans are supposed to do. I don’t consistently wear the team colors or stand up to emote my excitement or disappointment. The closest I have ever been to claiming fan status was when I attended college hockey games with my friends and we wore t-shirts to spell out words. Even that felt incredibly awkward to me.
My closet is void of team sweatshirts, (except for the teams I’ve coached) and I am often completely oblivious about the schedule of the games.
I am not a good fan.
I may not do fan things well, but I love watching sports. I don’t watch for the fan experience, I watch because I so appreciate the athleticism, the talent, the human story in each game, and if I’m going to be honest, I’m entertained by the fans themselves.
Fans are such emotional beings. They rise and fall with the successes of their teams. You can hear it…especially if all you are doing is listening to the emotional crescendo.
Something even happens to the eyes of fans while they are watching, and I have learned to let the emotion fade before saying much to a disappointed fan. (An art mastered as the wife of a Vikings fan)
That’s all I need to say, right? If I tell you that my husband is a Vikings fan, a picture probably pops into your head. How about for a Steelers fan? A Lakers fan? A Red Wings fan? A Yankees fan? There’s a persona, right?
I’m a huge party pooper when it comes to fandom. I don’t have a favorite football, basketball, hockey or baseball team. I enjoy watching good games and I’m compelled by the personal stories of triumph and teamwork, but I’m not super cool to hang out with if you are looking for that fan experience.
Fans generally have a running commentary on the plays of the games. They verbalize frustrations with the players, they yell at refs, they engage with opposing fans, they continually critique the coaches and the coaching decisions and they are most excited when they are surrounded by fans who think and feel like them.
Maybe this is why the youth games I attend are becoming increasingly uncomfortable for me.
The fans that show up to a youth sporting event are not just fans of the sport, they are not even just fans of the team, they are fans for their individual children. What’s wrong with parents being fans of their children, you might ask?
Personally, I don’t think it is wrong for parents to be fans of their kids, just as long as it doesn’t interfere with their ability to parent well.
When fan emotion mingles with logical parenting decisions, too often the emotion wins out. Frustration over performance, the negative emotions that accompany losses, disappointment with what seems unfair are all things that fans experience. Parents need to filter all of that to offer objective, loving guidance to help their children navigate sports as a small aspect of their life experiences.
It fascinates me…honestly. I walk around the rink at the games for the youngest kids, and I hear parent after parent yelling instruction through the glass, or over the boards,about what a kid should do. “Two hands on the stick.” “Get up!” “Go after it.” “Skate faster.” These instructions are even beyond the calls of a fan. The parents who feel like they need to instruct are fans and coaches wrapped up into one. (an entirely separate blogpost) They forget that they should be parents first.
Kids need parents on the sidelines. They need people who are there and are genuinely invested in the longterm goal of raising a kid of character. Of supporting them when they fall, not yelling at them because they did.
Fans want an experience, and that’s fine. The problem is that kids who play sports want the sports experience as a player, but they need the parent-child relationship more than they need an adoring fan. If the sports experience is disappointing, and the emotion drives a conversation between a parent and a child, the relationship takes on a twinge of disappointment too. It all gets really confusing…especially for a young child.
So are you more of a fan or more of a parent?
Checklist of a fan:
- Prep for the games getting yourself all psyched up
- Have superstitions
- Wear team gear
- Plan life around games
- Feel as though you are part of the action
- Speak critical commentary about plays during the game
- Verbalize opinions about the refs
- Criticize the coaching decisions
- Feel extremely disappointed when the team loses
- Feel extremely pleased when the team wins
Checklist of a parent:
- Feed and rest their children so the children are prepared to play
- Prep children with emotional fuel
- Schedule games into the lives of the family
- Enjoy watching the action
- Cheer effort of their children
- Let the refs ref
- Let the coaches coach
- Help to support a child when he/she loses
- Point out the ways a child worked hard no matter the outcome of a game
I think every parent who has their children involved with sports will have elements of both a fan and a parent, but I think much more time needs to be invested in drawing those lines so that appropriate parenting decisions take precedence over experiencing a child’s event as a fan.