Hey! Want to hear about truly egregious parenting? Picture it. Swim trials. Girls from all over the region competing against the stopwatch to qualify for the highest level of scholastic competition in their sport: States. Lots of cheering, towels, iPods, goggles, swim caps, handmade posters with glitter. Screaming. Lots of screaming and hugging. Parents lining the railing of the upper observation deck, coaches pacing the tiled "sideline" below. Chlorine. Lots of chlorine.
A talented swimmer takes her mark, swims the butterfly, misses the cutoff time for states by a solid second. Bad news. One father has made his way down from the upper deck to the pool, either through the officials-only entrance or the locker room. Terrifying thought, as the boys locker room has been declared "girls only" for this extra-large meet. His daughter is sobbing and begging, "Please Daddy, please let me swim the backstroke."
No. Absolutely not. Since she didn't qualify in her first event- the 200-yard butterfly- he will not allow her to even try in her second trial. She was supposed to go to States for BOTH of her strokes, you see. Since she "blew" the first one, she's not allowed to even try for her second. It was all or nothing. "Only" qualifying for ONE event wasn't good enough. She's done. Her lane will remain empty during her heat for the backstroke.
Two twitchy coaches from other schools stand nearby. You can tell they're DYING to stick the business end of their clipboards where the sun doesn't shine, but this isn't their swimmer, their school, their battle. Her coach is not getting involved in this conversation, which really makes you think... How big of a douchebag parent do you have to be to a coach before they won't deal with you? At all. Ever.
It's remarkable to me, Non-Athlete Extraordinaire, how the bigger picture here, the greater perspective, dissolved in that water that night. You know, qualifying times *are* important. Getting to states is important. Being the best *is* important. It is. I just don't get how wanting the best for your kid becomes wanting them to BE the best. And not just the best at ONE thing, but EVERYTHING. There's a popular t-shirt for sale at most of these things, a la the old "No Fear" shirts from the 90s, with the slogan, "Sports don't build character. They reveal it." That's so true, and not just for the athletes.