I couldn’t do it. About ten minutes into my daughter’s soccer game this past weekend, I had to move myself down the sideline and as far out of earshot of the other parents as I could. I’m not sure if there was a specific thing yelled, but the combination of loud, instructive, and somewhat clueless comments from a few separate parents convinced me quickly that I had a choice to uncomfortably battle through the game, or move so I could enjoy watching the kids play.
I try not to move away from the crowd. If I’m not taking pictures, I try to sit with the parents on the teams for my kids. There are times, however, when it is better for me to get up and move.
I’m admittedly a pretty bad sports fan (I don’t wear jerseys or buttons, wave cowbells, paint my face or say much out loud at all) and I have learned that although I am quite different than the other fans or parents who attend sporting events, there is nothing wrong with me. What’s hard for me is remembering that there is generally nothing wrong with 95% of the louder parents either.
I am an introvert and it changes the way I want to engage with sports. I LOVE sports, but I don’t love the extrovert energy that sort of takes over sidelines or sports bars or stadiums. I loved being on the field or court as a competitor and I learned over my years competing to block out the noise from the sidelines. It was actually a really valuable skill acquisition, but it doesn’t work for me all the time. I don’t do as well when I have to sit in the noise. I could literally watch a game wearing noise cancelling headphones, text an impression of certain plays to my husband, and call that a good day as a sports parent.
I joke with people that I might have ended up as a soccer coach because as a coach I have the opportunity to enjoy soccer games from the opposite side of the field from the parents. Unless I have to share that sideline with a loud, idiot coach, being on the sideline with players is my favorite way to attend soccer games.
I am uncomfortable with the loud, but loud parents seem just as uncomfortable with my quiet. Other quiet parents I know feel judged for needing to move, or forced into extrovert engagement by more high-fiving exuberant fans.
To extroverted sports parents:
Be positive. Be engaged. Be passionate. Be loud. You can’t help it. One other ask I have of you is to be patient with and considerate of the other sports parents who are not like you. It is true…there are introverted sports parents. We won’t like emotional yelling, especially the negative kind. We do care about the game, about our kids, about all the kids on the team, and even about the yelling sports parents who are often our friends, but introverts will sometimes step back from engagement because it is more overwhelming for us to be in the noisy emotions that exist most dramatically on the sidelines of youth and high school games.
And for my fellow introverted sports parents, it is okay to hide behind a camera, to sneak to a quieter spot near the game, or to quietly absorb the emotions around you. Find the engagement that works best for you and know that your willingness to introspect is an asset not a weakness.
If your kids play team sports, chances are 25-40% of the parents who show up to support their kids are introverted like me. Accepting and celebrating our quieter energy can be valuable for the team as a whole. It just might require working at eye contact and directing a quiet nod toward the end of the field.
Copyright Meagan Frank 2019
The Team Adult Playbook