Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Full Contact Basketball? I'm not sure we signed up for this.

I read this post by a friend of mine and it has had me thinking for a few days now.  No, I don't think she's failed as a parent.  Far from it.  Her kids are bright, happy, healthy, absolutely adorable, and I've only seem them be nothing but polite.  But no matter how well we "train" our kids in the art of interacting with other people, there is no way we can control how other parents train their kids.  Do I want to be the mom who goes off on another mom whose child is bullying one of my own?  Not really.  In a perfect world, the other parent would be a parent in the true sense and take care of the offending child's behavior and we could broker a peace deal over coffee and juice boxes.  Alas, playground politics don't usually work out that way.

Right now, M is having some trouble with a brat punk jerk bully on his basketball team.  This bully has managed to include elements of football, ultimate fighting, and Dynasty-esque slapping into the basketball practices and games.  Sure, these kids range in age from 5 to 7, so they are still learning the rules and, for the most part, the coach has done a stellar job of wrangling this bully, but practices and games are crazy (hello...the kids are 5 to 7 years old) and there are times when this little bully gets away with stuff.  Of course, I know about this because I'm on the sidelines at all the practices and games and I see it happen, but I've never gone over to the bully to rectify the situation.   But you know who else is there on the sidelines?  The bully's parents.  They've sat through a number of practices and several games watching their spawn wreak havoc on and off the court and haven't said a word.  I think that juicy tidbit is what angers me the most.  If I saw M running amuck like that, I'd definitely be having stern words with my boy.

In any case, up until a week ago, I didn't want to be the mom who lays into another mom.  However,  everything changed at last week's practice.  Some time during the course of Thursday's practice, this bully called M a, "bitch."  Really.  This word wasn't even on M's radar and now, thanks to this bully, it is.  I took a day to process this and I decided a carefully-worded email to the coach would be my first move.

Hi Coach,
I'm writing this brief email to let you know about something a little unsettling that happened during last night's practice.  It seems as if a little boy on the team (not C-----) called M------ a "b-tch" last night.  Another team member brought it to my attention - apparently she witnessed the name calling.  Even though that particular word isn't really on M------'s radar yet, he does understand that it's a bad word and he's pretty bummed about the whole affair.  We've been working on the whole "words can hurt" lesson at home and now M------ is all full of questions about why one of his teammates would call him a mean name.  M------'s pretty shy and a little overwhelmed on the court, so we are not making a huge deal about this because we are trying to emphasize the fun parts of basketball.  In any case, I understand that your role as a volunteer basketball coach does not include policing everything that comes of out the kids' mouths, but I'm wondering if you'd be able to give the team a little pep talk either this Saturday or next Thursday - whichever best fits your schedule.  Perhaps you could remind them that since they are all on the same team they should work together, not call each other names, and have fun.
Liz Chalmers
(M------'s mom)

I heard back from the coach almost immediately and he was completely on board with my suggestion and in a subsequent email I admitted which particular kid it was and the coach said he'd bring it up one-on-one with the parents.  That should be an interesting conversation.  Hopefully this unfortunate incident will help get this bully under control and the rest of the team can relax a little.  M seems to be enjoying basketball, but I can tell that he's intimidated by this little bully and I don't want him to lose interest in a fun sport just because there's a feral punk on his team.  If I want to think on a grand scale, perhaps this incident will knock the feral punkishness right out of this boy, because if he's this much of a bully when he's in the first grade, I don't want to know him in junior high or high school.

So, even though I don't want to be the mom who goes off on another mom whose child is bullying mine, I will if I need to.  It's my job to keep them safe - physically safe and emotionally safe - and I want them to know that I've got their backs.  

Matthew is number 13.  Go Spurs!


  1. Well said Liz, this is such a tough topic to manage. While my job is to protect my kids at any cost, I wonder what "any cost" is. Ryan is so incredibly good at this topic and I think it's because he takes his emotions out of the situation when approaching someone about their or their child's behavior. I am finding that I need to keep my emotions in check at all times around my kids and especially in tough situation's. I applaud your approach on this (and other situations as well) you always seem to take the right path.

  2. Thanks, Leslie. You're spot on - in order to set a good example for the kiddos (and other parents...) it's best to keep your cool. Sure, I'll be the mom who goes to bat for her kids, even if it means having awkward conversations with the parents of feral punks, but I'll do it in a civilized fashion and save the sniping and griping for my blog. :)