Listen up, parents: Pipe down and enjoy season
“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I can assure them it’s much more serious than that.”
~Bill Shankly, former Britain football manager
You hear them all the time, those tall tales and horror stories about how much small-town communities love their football programs, and how that love can transform into such hate, such vitriol, such stupidity.
Although it might sound like it, Bill Shankly wasn’t talking about American football when he compared soccer to a more treacherous scenario. As Warriors football looms large, keep that in mind. Not that I expect everybody to listen. By now, some of you have probably disposed of the paper.
So then, before we go any further today, I’d like to start with a moment of silence for all the current and former New Mexico high school head football coaches out there …
Thank you. I hope first-year coach Louie Laborin is prepared, and I’m not talking about for the game. Nope, that, quite honestly, might just be the least of his concerns. The Warriors went 7-5 last year, before bowing out to Academy in the quarterfinals, and if you read the season-opening piece in the paper, you understand that tradition never graduates. Fortunately for football coaches, kids do, and with them take their nut-job parents to crawl up another coach’s — well, I’ll stop right
Longtime coach-turned-AD Damien Ocampo understands that the season doesn’t just bring wins and losses. It brings out foaming-at-the-mouth parents and those Sunday-morning quarterbacks (including yours truly), jilted because their kid isn’t getting enough playing time, or because coach went for it on fourth-and-1 and didn’t convert.
“You’ve got a couple thousand people at the games, and if you win the game, you’re probably pretty popular and if you lose the game, you’re probably not very popular, especially in a small town where you’re under the microscope because the town shuts down to watch you play,” Ocampo said during a recent interview at his office. “You only have five times every year to show what you’re putting out on the field in front of the community. I can promise you after every game that we won when I was a coach, I had parents upset with me after the game. They came up to me and were either upset about playing time or maybe a choice I made … And after every game we lost, I had parents mad at me because we lost. It’s everywhere. It’s every small town.”
Doesn’t mean it has to be you, Socorro. What Ocampo described was likely a tamed, expletive-free version of what he actually encountered.
My question to you, Socorroans: Why does that have to be a part of high school athletics? Parents, I’m not saying leave your passion at the turnstile. Come. Bring it. Paint your faces. Bring the posters. Chant until your lungs are sore. All that rah-rah is as much a part of the game as anything else. The other dubious misbehavior — the yelling, cursing and acting like a bunch of silverback gorillas that just got released from their cages? Not so much. After all, you’re parents. Act like it.
Take it from a 22-year-old kid, who at one time, played high school athletics: All you’re doing is embarrassing your child. I was one of the lucky ones. Whenever my parents came to games, they remained where they belonged — in the stands. My dad never came down on the field or the court to physically challenge the coach. My mom never went to PTA meetings to cajole and smooch with the boosters at Cibola High School. Sure, it meant that I rode the pine, but I’m a better person for it. If not, I might have neglected to turn down the writing avenue.
As parents, you have been entrusted a duty to be responsible. Don’t be that yahoo who has to be escorted from the field by security, or God forbid, held back by your more level-headed son. A reminder from your friendly neighborhood sports writer: Socorro probably won’t win all its games. Prepare yourself for that loss whenever it comes. Don’t blame the coaches. Don’t blame the kids. Nothing could be more juvenile.
Yes, you might live in a small town, but remember, the way to go big is not to get sent home or to the principal’s office.
As a teenager, your kid already probably can’t stand the sight of you. Don’t give him any more reasons to hate you.