When I was fifteen my local girls’ community softball league recruited me to become an umpire. I didn’t need much convincing. I’d just quit the high school team but I was desperate for a way to stay in the softball community. Plus the job paid between $15-$30 a game. Considering each game went no more than two hours this was good money.
My years of playing helped me fly through training, and before I knew it, it was time for my first game. I piled on all the gear and served as the umpire at a game of seven ten year olds. Thanks to the ten-run rule, the game was over in 45 minutes but I made the full $30. I was hooked!
As time went on, I worked through the ranks until I was experienced enough to call the “big” games – the tournaments and the all-star games. These games paid more (bonus!) but they were also much more fun for me. The players were extremely good, so I enjoyed watching them.
Unfortunately, the job wasn’t just calling balls and strikes. A HUGE portion of it was dealing with the parents…and I quickly realized that a lot of parents were jerks. They’d scream at their daughters, scream at each other, and scream at me. They would treat me like crap and set terrible examples for their daughters. Sure, I was just a kid myself, but I was the umpire and required a level of respect if not for any other reason than it was the right example to set for the players.
Being an umpire made me appreciate authority and hate adults. I often gave coaches warnings for the way they spoke to their players. On more than one occasion I actually made parents leave the stands of a game for being completely inappropriate. It was scary to stand up to these adults when I was only a teenager (especially if I knew them), but it was worth it when I’d see their daughters totally relax after the parents had been sent away or put in their place.
The biggest thing I gained from the three year experience (besides lots of money to buy clothes, wheeee!) was knowing exactly what kind of parent I did NOT want to be. Fifteen plus years later I still feel the same way. I never want to become so wrapped up in winning that I lose sight of my children. I don’t want to conduct myself with such foolishness that another person has to ban me from a playing field. And I never, ever want to put so much pressure on my kids to succeed that they throw up from fear and nervousness.
It’s important to motivate your kids and give them a push when they need it, but I witnessed too many parents taking it WAY beyond that. When it comes to sports – or really anything that your child excels at – it can be so easy to get swept away by the excitement of it all. But now that I AM the parent I have to constantly remind myself (even at Annie’s age) that it’s about HER happiness and I, as her mom, am there to support and encourage her and THAT’S ALL.
I have a feeling as she gets older my competitive side is going to make it very hard for me to follow my own advice.