When it comes to youth sports, today’s kids fall into two categories. Those who play rec, and those who play premier.
Premier leagues are more “serious” — code for a lot of practices, out-of-town tournaments and paid coaches. Premier soccer leagues, for instance, between professional uniforms (home and away), matching team bags, tournament costs and coaches fees can run parents anywhere from $500 to $2,000.
These teams have a team manager; typically a mom, whose job it is to collect everything and then hand a fat check to the coach. Her son starts every game.
Rec league parents and coaches, on the other hand, tend to be more low-key. Games are not life or death propositions and do not require an off-duty police officer on hand “just in case.”
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But over the years, I’ve seen a discrete subset of adults who confuse the little league with the bigs. These are the whack jobs who, during games, bark like a seal and often look like one too.
I know. I used to coach CYO basketball. Our team was in the “D” league. There was no “F” division. Almost everyone had the right perspective about all this. Yet one, maybe two, games a year my opposing coach missed the “it’s rec — relax” memo.
Guys who thought that beating us by 40 points earned him special mention by the Pope. So I learned how to separate the nutjobs from the normal guys. And starting with pre-game, I would look for clues to see if Bobby Knight had just moved to Kansas City. Here are the twelve signs:
1. Team decals on the parents’ car. A bad start to your Saturday.
2. Organized calisthenics an hour before tip-off. My players are still sleeping.
3. A head coach with three assistants. Offense, defense, and special teams. All need decaf.
4. Coaches pants. Double snap waistline with reinforced Velcro. XXXL. About to blow.
5. Talking to the referees pre-game. Get clarity on blocking foul/charge distinction.
6. Playbook in three-ring binder with section on clock management. Reminders how to save timeouts to the fourth quarter to “ice” little Johnny during crucial free throws.
Nevermind that Johnny’s 10.
7. Games are family reunions. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews arrive in a conversion van. All excited and ready to express a lot of opinions.
8. Substitution matrix. Excel spreadsheets should not be limited to the coach’s quarterly sales goals.
9. Ring of sweat under armpits before tip off.
10. Practicing the full court press pre-game. Bill Belichick doesn’t call off the dogs. Why should we?
11. Team chants at time outs.
12. Technical fouls. Not the coach — grandpa!
This column previously appeared in 913 in January 2008. Reach Matt Keenan at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter:MDKeenan2, or visit his blog: www.matthewkeenan.com.