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COMMENTARY BY RAMON PRESSON: When Parents Behave Badly

Which crowd of event spectators would you least want to be in the middle of?

        a)       Christians being fed to the lions in ancient Rome

        b)      Running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain

         c)       Bonnaroo among mud-bathers on 3rd day of 90 degree heat

         d)      Free Beer section of NASCAR fans during the 600-mile race in Charlotte

         e)      Summit High School parents section of girls varsity basketball game

If you answered anything but “E” apparently you have not attended a Summit High School varsity girls basketball game this year. I have and I’d rather be pickled in beer, gored by bulls, and then fed to the lions at Bonnaroo.

I’ve witnessed and endured the gymnasium torture repeatedly. My son plays for Summit’s varsity team; and the girls varsity game is sandwiched in between the boys junior varsity and varsity games –sort of like a large fiery jalapeno between two slices of plain bread. It’s the “Jerry Springer Show” scheduled between episodes of “Mister Rogers” and “Mayberry RFD.”

And the made-for-reality spectacle is not displayed on the court but in the stands – starring rabid parents who make professional wrestling fans seem tame by comparison. The basketball referees in our county and district are in vocal agreement that officiating a girls Summit basketball game is the worst gig in town.

There are constant screams of: Are you blind, ref? Foul! Traveling! Three seconds! Charge! Out of bounds! Double-dribble! Get your head in the game, ref!

If you were staging the Passion Play and needed extras in the angry crowd to shout, “Crucify Him!” I’ve got just the people you’re looking for. By the way, when adults model abuse and bullying from school bleachers, why are we stunned when students bully peers in school hallways?

Summit High is the newest high school in Williamson County, and is an outstanding collection of students, parents, administrators, teachers and coaches. My wife and I are quite pleased with the school’s commitment to excellence. The school is so new that juniors are the upperclassmen; Summit will graduate its first class of seniors in 2014. Though usually competing against older, bigger and more experienced players Summit athletes, male and female, play skillfully, bravely and with good sportsmanship on the fields and courts of competition.

With fans so close to the basketball court it is usually the opponent’s student section that pushes the envelope on appropriate behavior. Student sections frequently select one player on the opposing team to pick on and verbally harass whenever he/she touches the ball, ready to heckle when any mistake is made. It takes a thick skin and a deaf ear to play high school basketball.

For the Summit girls, however, it is the not the opposition’s mocking fans they must block out but their own parents. From the stands parents ridicule coaches and players but most sadly their own children. One father repeatedly barks his daughter’s jersey number instead of saying her name – barks that bite with criticism for the slightest mistake while any praise is apparently whimpered because I never hear it.

As a family therapist I feel a deep sadness for these girls who give maximum effort every moment on the court only to have their own parents bellow at them like boot camp drill sergeants. During the recent aforementioned game two Summit players on separate occasions looked up at the parents section with expressions that clearly stated, “What is WRONG with you people??!!” It’s a sad commentary when the most emotionally mature and self-controlled people in the gym are high school freshmen and sophomores.

And because of an incident earlier in the season, there is also considerable tension between the parents of the Summit girls – glares, stares and caustic comments between two sides. That in itself was a result of adults knowingly placing the girls in a divisive and no-win situation when it came to a decision of whether or not to tell the truth. It is a despicable thing for adults to force children into a tight corner of integrity where there are only two ways out: to be called a “liar” or to be labeled a “snitch.”

The basketball season is drawing to a close. Perhaps the off-season will provide the Summit girls the opportunity to be children again and a chance for their parents to become adults. 

Author and therapist, Dr. Ramon Presson is the founder of LifeChange Counseling and the Marriage Center of Franklin. He can be reached at www.LifeChangeCS.org and ramonpresson@gmail.com.

Posted on: 2/26/2013

 
 

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