FAMILY SUNDAY – A theme going into this weekend of games was how young players keep their stats per game, which I’ll get to this week. But for now, on family Sunday, I want to propose that families keep a stat that may honestly indicate not only how happy they are as a unit or individuals, but how happy their children will be for years to come. What’s the stat?
Count every time you complain. Every time you, your partner, your kids, your nanny, your babysitter and close relatives just rip into something petty to mildly objectionable to a legitimate concern that should be aired (and I do think most rationale adults and even kids know the difference.)
Count this week and see who the biggest offenders are and see if the disease is spreading or limited to one faction in the house. Then the following week, see if everyone can drop it down a notch or two or three depending on your score. I am going to do this myself. Honest.
Why am I proposing this game? Maybe it’s because my #1 job is to please my clients, who are NYC parents.
Three things you need to know about NYC parents:
1) They are extremely competitive. Most are high performers and/or income earners in their field. This means they want the best for their kid and they are willing to pay for it. And if paying for it doesn’t work or if it does and they’re getting what they paid for or if they are not, they’ll often keep wanting more because they’re so competitive.
2) NYC parents are animals about their time. That is a big reason why the are able to survive and provide for their families in such a fast-paced city. My biggest job is to not waste people’s time. This means some of the parents actually jump the gun regularly and complain that the gym is not open or the coach is not there at 5:45 pm when practice and/or the permit starts at 6 pm. Any thought of a threat to their time makes them feel like they are under attack. I work extremely hard to respect their time. It is a big reason why I started an 80-team league – so we’re not waiting on anyone else who could be wasting our time.
3) NYC parents want the best and in this case, they often want it for their kids. As is the case for most parents, their kids are everything. Anything goes wrong with their everything, and they often feel under attack.
And what do they do? Often complain before there’s a problem or at the slightest indication of a problem. Granted I’ve got parents out there in the field who will always have access to me because I know they are our undercover look-outs. If the Motion ship isn’t running the way they know I’d want it to be, they are very polite and respectful about relaying their take. The most trustworthy ones often preface any input by saying, “It’s up to you, Mo. But just want to give you head’s up.”
The most difficult ones are the ones who chronically complain and say, “You know me. I am never one to complain.”
My family is not perfect. I’m not going to say we are dysfunctional Irish, meaning we do get emotional and say/do things that hurt each other more than people outside our family most of the time. The issue for us as kids is that we were not allowed to complain about 90 percent of what parents complain about now. I googled parents and complain and it was “playing time” that automatically filled in. Teachers websites were endless – how to handle parents who complain all the time. We couldn’t’ complain because my father was 1 of 10, dirt poor for most of his life, and my mother worked every floor of the hospital, hospice and at the local college infirmaries. She saw death, illness and hardship regularly and never talked about it with us.
My brothers are both in law enforcement, so it’s tough to get a conversation going about how awful one of their coaches is in any sport. They just know that it happens and their kids have to suck it up and move on to the next experience where they may have a better coach. It’s not always great team, great coach, great game.
So here’s my take on this. There are people who just wake up every day and complain. They also deny facts like their kid isn’t showing up to practice. They also ignore the fact that their kid who is the weakest on the team and talks herself out of most drills did not make the all-star team and they want everything to be fair for their kid who didn’t earn it. They’re saying they don’t like their team when their child picked that team of friends. They’re not happy with the coach even though I went to see practice yesterday and NO players from the team showed up. Not one. Only one mom told the coach ahead of time. Another few parents were mad because a coach was late to a game by five minutes or so. It was because she had two games prior and she was running to the gym (and she lives far away like most of our coaches).
In all the chaos of trying to produce a youth sports team or league, parents often have no idea of all the factors in play. They just look for something and can’t let go of it. What they don’t know is that over the course of 36 hours of running an 80-team league as air tight as possible, here’s what happened behind the scenes:
- A team in the league reported that their coach had a heart attack. As sad as this was (and coach seems OK), the team should have still attended the game with a parent coach because the other team and all their fans re-arranged their whole weekend to be there. I am really firm on this to the point where if our teams forfeit, our coach will not get paid (it’s on the coach always). Three players showed up for this game (team is not a Motion team). I assigned one of our coaches to coach the kids (on my tab) and borrow one player for our 4on4 league so that everything would run as planned.
- The coach who stepped up later that night after working all day got in a car accident and totaled his car. Thankfully he is okay. He was supposed to report to a fundraising event as my co-host from 9-1 pm. He did not show. I grabbed a kid from Team Senegal and said you’re working today and taught and floated him until some balance was restored. Note that the new gym helper was supposed to meet me at 8:30 to help me lug a clock to a gym while I texted everyone to be in position. New helper text me at 8:45 saying he was just leaving his house now. Missed my ride. I asked an 8th grader named Mikey to train him in two gyms. Mikey may win contractor of the season and 8th grade purple team MVP.
- A gym scorekeeper did not show again yesterday and then emailed us a letter of resignation from his scorekeeping job this am after showing up about 40 percent of the time (and we pay him). Most professional act was sending his letter of resignation. I laughed and then moved our new back-up into position. My hunch yesterday was that this kid was done – so glad at my age to still be one step ahead of someone.
- Yesterday a coach was visibly upset about a very ill and young family member to the point where she said she needed a minute. She looked like she needed more than an minute. I let her go and covered for her.
And honestly, it was the best week with the least amount of glitches that we have had in seven weeks, including the blizzard weekend, which created a ton of stress to re-scheduling weekends.
The parents that complain about a coach being five minutes late or about a few boys in the workout being too aggressive (mom of girl who is really passive) and the dad who thinks her daughter who finishes last in all sprints and constantly talks her way out of drills is being treated unfairly – all of these parents represent such a small fraction of our population. Yet they make the most noise.
On the flipside, we had several Parent Challenge events today that were awesome. We did tons of drills for dad-son workouts and then added a shooting clinic and some full court and half-court scrimmage time. Granted a mom of a new player was in a scrimmage and she collided with another dad. Dad went a little crazy (I missed it) and told her with blunt anger that he was sure she broke his nose. A coach who saw it happen said the mom didn’t do anything crazy. We don’t know which dad it was – and let’s hope we don’t get a medical bill this week.
A mom came up to me yesterday and said that the idea and event were so well run and one best moments of the winter for her as she watched her son and husband bond over a fun game of hoops.
I’m going to end this reality rant with yet another positive note. The photo above is of a fourth grader in our program named Molly. Molly broke her arm last year. She was in a large cast for several weeks. Dad brought her in and I was shocked to see the cast, the nervous and shy young girl, and then the dad say, “She’s going to make the most of this.”
I said good for Molly.
(Just as long as she doesn’t hurt another kid, which is the greatest risk with a cast that thick. I pulled him aside to tell him this after she started.)
Molly stuck out every practice and even the games where she eased back in over time. She did this for most of the season.
Just watched her play today. Not only was Molly tough and skilled, she was out there leading and inspiring with her no-excuses team play. Her Lime Team teammates were out there having a great time and playing with tremendous pride. There was a point where the girls were on the bench whining a bit about the team being too rough, too aggressive – the “she hit me” stuff. And I said, “Girls, it’s basketball. A contact sport. If you don’t like it, play tennis.”
A man named John Wooden said, “No whining, no complaining, no making excuses.” Just get out there and play the game. Embrace the adversity and the imperfection of it all. Put all the negative energy into energy that best solves the problem or the perceived problem.
Usually it isn’t a problem. Honest. It’s just a bump that will go away if you let it.
Look at it that way. That’s what I am going to do. It’s just a few bumps mostly, and my job is to steady the car so the ride to the end of the season is as smooth as possible for the parents, who, like me and our staff, are out working as hard as they can for their kids every day.