Parents, play fair

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— The challenges facing parents keep getting harder in today's increasingly competitive world.

No place is this more evident than in sports, where success is often measured in terms of wins and losses.

During my career as a sports writer, I've witnessed the good and bad aspects of parenting when it comes to supporting young athletes.

From the sidelines, I've watched as parents cheered their children's accomplishments. I've also been at midfield when parents offer a shoulder to cry on after a heartbreaking loss.

On the other side, there have been a few times when I wanted to ban certain parents from attending their children's sporting events. But these incidents have, thankfully, been very isolated.

In most cases, parents play an important role and have a chance to make a positive connection with their children through sports. I think that most of the young athletes I've covered were glad Mom and Dad were there to watch.

This summer, I will get a more personal view on the issue when my 5-year-old son takes to the field as part of a youth soccer program.

For the first time in my life, I will no longer be the outsider looking in, but instead the insider who is emotionally connected to the game -- and its outcome.

For the past 10 years, I've preached to my wife about the way other people have acted and promised her that I would never act that way if I found myself in the same situation -- not in a million years.

Now, I have to live up to those words.

I don't blame parents for their enthusiastic approach in supporting their children's athletic interests.

I know firsthand the tremendous feeling of pride that comes from watching your child succeed -- whether that's on the playing field or in the classroom. I also understand how disappointing it can be when they fail.

But I've also witnessed parents who have lost sight of the bigger picture.

We've all heard the horror stories about the parents who have lost their cool at a baseball game ... or hockey game ... or football game ...

If you don't believe me, just plug into the Internet and type in the words "parent rage" and you can read all about it.

There, you will find hundreds of stories about parents who have lost sight of what's important. I've never seen this type of behavior in Steamboat and hope I never will.

The truth is, I don't know how I will feel when my own child starts playing organized sports. The one thing of which I am certain is that he doesn't want to be embarrassed by my actions.

I'm hoping that youth soccer will be the first test of many in my son's athletic career. I'm sure at times it will be difficult for me to watch and simply keep my mouth shut, but I will try.

You see, I'm determined to live up to the words I've been preaching to my wife all these years.

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