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Behaving Badly………..

February 14, 2011

That might sound like quite the mischievous title especially on Valentine’s Day but alas, this is a rant, not an expose. So brace yourself.

I recently volunteered at a swim meet where probably 300 kids (14 years old and younger) were trying to qualify for the Junior Olympics. They were crunched in crowded spaces and waiting for long periods of time in between their races in very hot spaces with a (big ole fat) hint of chlorine lingering in the room. They were being coached by coaches and being screamed at for by parents. It was (very) loud and (very) hot and (very) crowded. And that environment lasted for 6 full hours.

That sounds like a recipe for kids behaving badly doesn’t it? But, no. The kids were actually very well behaved – except for a little bit of running here and there, which is totally normal. The kids –  they were actually pretty marvelous. It was their flippin’ parents. Holy arse bad example batman.

I had the dubious honor of being a marshal. I raised my own hand to do it – can’t blame anyone but myself. However, say it with me – n.e.v.e.r. a.g.a.i.n.

Just in case you are not familiar with the high distinction of marshal duties at a Junior Olympic qualifying meet, let me give you a little peek into my day.

Have you ever seen the National Geographic special where a human being inadvertently comes in between a wild animal madre and her cub while holding an open can of corned beef hash? Well then, you are starting to get the idea of how my day played out. And, yes, I mean that special where the bear swats the head off said human, eats the nose, and gives the remaining parts to the cubs to play soccer with.

As marshal, you have get to stand by the only entrance to the pool donning a bright orange vest that does not at all match your earrings in a very hot room with a (big ole fat) hint of chlorine lingering and tell parents (who already know they are not allowed on deck) that they truly are not allowed on deck – not kidding. But for some reason they feel that they should be allowed on deck – even though no other parent is allowed on deck – just them. They want to “talk” to their children who are sure to be future Olympic champions – if only they can drop 850 seconds in their 50 free or put one of their 5 electronic devices down long enough to remember to warm-up for their races.

Just in case that wasn’t crystal clear – and yes, one parent asked me three times if he was being “crystal clear” (but don’t worry, I really don’t hold any residual bitterness 😉 ) – there is a lot of  pressure at these meets for children to be amazing – and that pressure comes from parents – not coaches. So parents are “needed” on deck – their children “require” their assistance. It is surprising how many swimmers were apparently incapable of determining on their own when they were in fact hungry and finding themselves a snack in their backpacks loaded up with enough food to sustain a not so small country for a week.

I bit a hole in my tongue more than once and showed great restraint in not asking a number of obvious questions like – why are you paying a coach when you yourself are so clearly overqualified or I’m sorry, when were you crowned king or really, 14-year-old Johnny cannot pack his own backpack and meet you over there – I mean, I know it’s a whole ten feet away, but, really?

Not letting parents on deck is the general practice at swim meets – it is what normally happens. It is printed on the meet announcements. Coaches remind their parents beforehand. It is not a surprise. You should not even need a marshal. Thank God we had two.

The irony in all of this is that parents are given ample opportunity to volunteer and be on deck in a number of capacities. The meet officials usually end up practically begging for additional volunteers at the beginning of every meet. You even get free food and drinks when you volunteer and you are right on deck, in the middle of it all.

But not these guys.

Parents lied (multiple times) about being coaches or timers. Parents told us to leave them alone. They followed behind us continuing conversations that were really already over.  They raised their voices – a lot. They ignored – a lot. Parents broke the rules and were extremely rude. They set horrible, horrible examples for their children. And they were being so super nasty to v.o.l.u.n.t.e.e.r.s. Those overpaid souls with way too many zeros in their paychecks – and unfortunately no other numerals.

I wished they would have stopped for just a minute and noticed the looks on the faces of their children as they were ranting and raving. Their kids really were not all that impressed. They unfortunately recognize bullying behavior when they see it. It probably was not their first glance of their parents acting like arses and sadly, it surely won’t be the last.

These jerks parents got up from their comfy seats, stopped to chat with friends (well, that is assuming they have some), stretched their legs, checked their smart phones, got a drink of water, perhaps went to the bathroom, and then dumped a ration of hatefulness on the people who were volunteering their time – not sitting down – not chatting with friends. And not even getting to see their own kids swim. Yep, I missed four of my own kids races because obnoxious parents were giving me what for. So instead of cheering for my kids I was being berated. Yeah, that was a whole lot of fun.

Someone even erased the word “no” on the “No parents allowed on pool deck” sign that the pool facility put up. Oh yea, and the “l” in pool. (I have to admit, that made me chuckle.)

No one was singled out. Everyone was held to the same expectation. Follow the rules. The rules that are in place at every single meet you attend and the rules that your coaches reminded you of before the meet and the rules that 75 % of the parents abide by without insulting anyone.

It was actually shameful behavior and quite honestly the worst offenders were 99% men. I hope they got the venom out of their systems so Valentine’s Day can be good for their significant others. I was so, so thankful that they were all going home with someone else. And I was thankful hubby was not there – but then again, if he had been there, he could have worn the vest. It would have looked so much better with his eyes.

So, when you approach a volunteer at an event. Be a kindler, gentler parent. Remember, if they aren’t doing what they are doing – someone else (read you) will have to step up.

And if you are reading this and are mad because you feel a connection with the offenders, shame on you! You are clearly at the wrong blog.

And teachers and coaches, there is no way on God’s green earth that you are getting paid enough. Thank you for what you do!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Carol permalink
    February 14, 2011 4:46 pm

    I’d like to say that I’m surprised, but I’ve seen it all more times than I care to remember. I don’t hate going to baseball all spring and summer because I hate the kids or even the game of baseball. It’s the parents that ruin everything!!!!

    They are so completely over the top with their competitive crap that it’s hard to sit there and not walk over and “accidentally” spill your drink on their heads. The sad part is that they can’t see/don’t care that what they’re doing mortifies their children and makes them want to quit.

    Sorry you had to put up with that, my friend!! I’d have lost it on the lot of them!!!!

    • February 14, 2011 5:24 pm

      Oh it would not have been nearly as pleasant for them my dear if you had been donning the orange vest – that would have been fun to see! 😎

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