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The Sk8ologist
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Issue 8

Fanatic parents must be exterminated

A few archetypes
Kid A is racing against Kid B to the last drop of blood. Both aged 8, both cross the line at the same time, both fall. Mother A yells to Mother B unprintable words, Mother B grabs Mother A by the hair, a pathetic catfight follows.
After regional race, Lovely Daddy holds Daughter by the elbows, shouting straight at her face: “You, useless piece of crap, you don’t deserve to be pampered like this! All that money spent in training, in equipment… and you’re not able to win a stupid race! You don’t belong to my family!” She’s bravely holding her tears, quite a feat for a six year old little girl.
At a coaching seminar, Expert Dad approaches unassuming Coach, asking:”Could you please suggest a weight training program and a mass gaining diet for my sprinter son?”. “Sure, how old is he?”, answers Coach. Posing serious aplomb, Expert says: “He’s nine”.

Parents, a necessary illness
None of the above mentioned cases have been made up by my feverish mind: I actually witnessed all that crap with my own eyes. As much dangerous and detrimental to the sport as corrupt politicians and bad coaches, fanatic parents are the main reason a good deal of kids quit skating for good. In fact, I can name several geopolitical areas in which our sport became extinct due to the insane behaviour displayed by just a few specimens of psycho like those illustrated.
All right, honestly our sport could not exist if it wasn’t for the support and sacrifice all the parents pull day in day out, in order to get their children to practice an unrewarding and expensive discipline. But sometimes this goes way beyond love. In many cases (mostly in Latin countries) adult’s personal failures, expectations and frustrations are blasted with amazing amplification to the little skaters. As a result, stupid petty rivalries arise and more and more kids grow up disgusted with a very demanding sport as it is.
I have some experience coaching/practicing other sports (individual and team) but I’ve never seen such an extreme situation as the one found in roller racing (it was even worse during the quad era, believe me). What causes it? Certainly our sport generates a strong passion in every one of us, but it’s easy to observe that people going over the top generally is lacking something in their life. It could be the social tissue: poorer countries are a massive factory of underdogs, smart asses, opportunists. In such an environment, insecure adults maybe are able to briefly taste -via their offspring- the righteousness and integrity our hard sport offers by its sheer nature; or perhaps it’s just a way to get economical benefits.
Or, most of the time, daddy simply is a natural born loser. An idiotic moron that aspires to glory through his children, forcing them to perform beyond their (and his) possibilities, in order to achieve something he could never have reached.
I know, it’s difficult to explain to a half-with that his ten year old girl might not be the next world champion, but it’s up to us coaches and managers to force in those parents’ narrow minds that for pre-junior athletes competition is just a way, not the aim. And the problem gets worse whenever those parents with delusions of grandeur turn into referees or club/federation authorities! We’d better start educating mum & dad from the very first day their kid steps into the track. Undoubtedly it’s not our job to provide free group therapy; nevertheless we should employ all our reserves of tact, diplomacy and knowledge to dissuade those few notable overzealous gits that are 100% positive their spawn is a Mantia clone… because just ONE of them can shatter and destroy our whole group!
Observe them closely, and you will notice that in 99% of the cases, people that act in such a way are suffering from some form of complex (inferiority or the opposite, generally). So if you’re a coach and need to deal with them, allow me to recommend a “homeopathic” method: be humble with the unconfident, be superior to the “know-it-alls”.
For instance, the mother that goes ballistic and shouts her girl a series of directions completely opposed to ours, is a good challenger to a face-off. We can address her in such a way that the whole track is able to listen, while asking politely: “Excuse me, madam: could you please remind me what’s your daughter lactate threshold? No? Surely you can recall for me her last Conconi Test values…Neither that? Well, thanks anyway.” The lady in question will react in two possible ways:
- she learns the lesson and never mess with us again
- she is not embarrassed at all, or even takes offence
The second type of reaction indicates a terminal case of ignorance, which has to be eradicated. Our setting is already overpopulated by the uneducated, we don’t need another one. So it would be convenient to deal with such type of person through the club’s authorities and eventually apply compulsory disciplinary actions. If the person in question is already one of the club’s authorities, well… you’d better walk away.

Rule of thumb: the only kid we can afford to lose from our group is the one who’s got ignorant or fanatic parents.  

The worst ones

On the track is relatively easy to avoid similar behavior, usually knowledge and self-confidence is enough for a good coach to establish at the most a benevolent dictatorship to which parents submit. Unfortunately, the most dangerous specimens of extremist parents are usually quite discrete at training sessions or races: these maniacs express their shenanigans mostly while at home.

Isn't he cute?

But sooner or later they expose themselves: a typical case might be the third archetype that I mentioned early on, people raising a pre-teen boy that ask things like “how about a couple of extra interval sessions during the week?” or “shall we try 110 wheels for him?” Sometimes they can be reasonable so we should try to involve them in the kids’ activities. Doing so, they might learn a thing or two regarding infantile training and physical education, and maybe realize the damage being done to their own son if they keep acting like that.
But alas, a few of these specimens go berserk anyway, especially if the youngster reaches the junior or pre-junior ranks. Subsequently you have cases like the Florida dad who spent a few years behind bars for administering a daily cocktail of assorted steroids to his adolescent boy, or the infamous Dutch psychotic who firmly believes nandrolone is the perfect dietary supplement for his children.

I can go on and on providing examples of loco relatives, but by now I guess you got my point. So please, for the sport’s well being: if you are in the position of healing those deranged genitors, cure them or send them packing away (possibly to a different sport). If you are a skater’s foster, read and distribute the appendix of this article, which I believe has been written by the lovely Linda Wood a few years back (not sure where I found the text, sorry)
But if you happen to be one of those insane geezers instead, you’d better stay as far away from me as you can, because my mission is to exterminate you by conventional and/or unconventional methods (usually involving from sterilization to euthanasia). You’ve been warned, arsehole.

Marcello Bresin


Appendix - Tips for skater Parents

During practice sessions, keep a low profile. Let the coach do the coaching and just enjoy watching your child develop. Observe and evaluate, but avoid being overbearing. If you are a parent who is also a skater, the same applies…let the coach do the coaching.
Communicate with your skater privately and positively.
Don’t gossip
Be a good Role model. Don’t swear, or in other ways show poor sportsmanship. Let your behavior serve as an example.
Redefine winning and losing. Place a priority on effort and reaching maximum potential as individuals and as a team.
See opponents as comrades, not enemies. Emphasize competing against yourself; opponents are there just to help you do this.
Encourage cooperation. Push teamwork; discourage selfishness, set up situations where different sexes/races of children depend on each other for success.
Keep sports in perspective. Nurture well-rounded identity for kids; support their sport and nonsport interests equally, as this fosters an identity as a total person, not just an athlete.
Be positive whenever possible. Critical comments can hurt more than help; give a compliment first, then add what they can do to improve, followed by why doing this will help them.
All kids are not created equally. Differences among kids require different ways of treating them. Appreciate their individual strengths and help them develop at their own pace.
Avoid “labeling” kids. They tend to behave and perform within the limits you set for them; expecting each of them to succeed in their own way gives them the freedom to do so.
Don’t confuse hearing with listening. Listen to their needs and concerns; their worries may seem trivial at times, but let them know you understand and support them.
Feel free to contact one of the coaches personally if you need to discuss an issue about your child.

Issue 1