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Brian Hamilton: One of ‘those’ parents

Our 4-year-old daughter just didn’t seem to be getting it.

Rich, her tennis coach had explained it to her over and over again.

But instead of stepping with her left leg while throwing down an overhead smash, she kept lifting her back leg with each swing. And each time, Rich would patiently remind her to do just the opposite.



I knew that our girl could do it, but for some reason she just didn’t seem to understand the instructions.

So, knowing her best, I figured I’d help … and before I could even shout the full sentence across the court, I’d already realized what I had done. If for only a brief moment, I had become one of “those” parents.




You know the sort.

Rather than simply cheering their child on, they shout out corrections their kid needs to make or instructions on how to best play the game.

Meanwhile, the coach is wondering why he’s out there wasting his time if mom or dad are so intent on doing his job.

And there I was, standing on the sideline of the Bear River High School tennis courts Tuesday afternoon, my face suddenly flush in embarrassment as Rich then went back to working with our little girl.

I suppose it might not have seemed like much of a big deal to anyone else, but I couldn’t help but feel like quite the hypocrite.

You see, I’ve taken more than one of “those” parents to task in this very column space through the years. Having both played, coached and officiated more games than I’d like to admit, I know the uneasy feeling of hearing shouts from the pundits in the peanut gallery.

And now, dear sports fans, I was one of them.

Once I’d forgiven myself – and promised to bite my tough till it bleeds, if necessary, to not do it again – I finally had come full circle with my youth sports experience.

Suddenly, I could see how “those” parents might actually not be as bad as they seem.

Some, of course, are way out of control. Not only do they yell for little Johnny to shoot the ball, but they seem to seethe in anger when he misses.

Then there’s the mom or dad who actually walks up to the coach to suggest which substitutions or defensive assignments might make more sense than the ones he or she had subscribed to up to that point.

And, as we all know, there are the sports scholarship-chasing folks, whose children shockingly seem to have their entire career planned out before they even celebrate their 10th birthday.

It’s enough to get you wondering who these young athletes are playing for, themselves or their parents?

But, as I learned firsthand, the majority of the parents you might hear out at the ball game do mean well. We just might get carried away in the moment or only want the best for the kids, rather than actually believing that we know any better than the coach.

After my moment of clarity, and after our 9-year-old stepped up to begin her own tennis session, I was actually pleased to have realized that I’d crossed that line, if only for a moment, and had become one of “those” parents.

As I turned to my wife, humbled and ready to share my sudden self awareness, she smiled from beneath her sunglasses and shouted … “C’mon Rich! Get her going! We’ve only got eight years until we get her into the Olympics!”

She was only kidding, of course.

At least I – and, no doubt, my girls and all their future coaches – certainly hope so.

Brian Hamilton is sports editor at The Union. His column is published Saturdays. Contact him via e-mail at bhamilton@theunion.com or by phone at 477-4240.


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