Road Trip Dad – Parents: Observations from Three Tournaments In Nine Days
Dan Witmer | July 10, 2019
“I love my job!”

That’s what I told the various teams as I presented them with championship t-shirts, took photos, and awarded MVP medallions for the past two weeks.

By definition, I am an independent contractor, hired by Summit Lacrosse Ventures to serve as their Competition Director, their Summit Society Director, and their Legends Director. I was hired to work four SLV tournaments this summer – the Northstar Capital City Classic, the Lake Placid Youth Summit Classic, the Saratoga Lacrosse Shootout, and the Lake Placid Summit Classic.

Three down, one to go.

As competition director, my job duties continue to evolve. At one time, my job was to fill in the scores of every game on large schedule grids. Then we went from Sharpies to TV monitors. Then we had workers at each score table calling my cell phone to leave text messages with scores. Now the kids send their scores in through “the cloud” – I guess. They all have cell phones and there are game codes, and they type in the scores and somehow the results just show up on the website. In seconds! Magic!

So now my job is obsolete, right? Wrong.

I’m still needed to answer questions about the brackets, tie-breakers, and “so where do we play next?” For some brackets, re-seeding is done after a round of two or three games, and I’m the guy that does that. We had one tie this past week where we went all the way to Tiebreaker #5 – coin toss. That doesn’t happen very often!

Still, I’ve been told that I’m a valuable member of the SLV team, mostly because I can do whatever is needed. I refereed nine games in the 8U division up at Lake Placid for two days, and I went and picked up lunches at Subway another day. I drove a shuttle cart for an hour or so at Saratoga this past weekend, helping grandparents and overburdened parents get to the correct fields.

But maybe the biggest role I played was “the guy in charge of championships.” I met with coaches before their championship games, reviewed our post-game protocol, and then met with the winning teams afterwards for their photos, t-shirt presentations, and MVP awards.

I “borrowed” my championship speech from SLV CEO Ashley Gersuk-Murphy, who did the presentations at the girls’ NCCC tournament June 29-30 (thanks, boss!). We talked about the three tenets of the Summit Society – competition, camaraderie, and respect, and I had parents complement me afterwards for talking about “the important things.”

Last year I started “interviewing” winners of the championship MVPs and the runner-up Sportsmanship award winners, and we put their profiles on the SLV website. With each tournament this year, I’ve tried to add just a little more – weekend highlights, favorite lacrosse player, etc. “I’m gonna make you famous,” I tell each winner. Sometimes their parents video our interview, which I think is pretty cool.

So, by my count, we presented championships to some 21 different teams between Sunday, June 30 and Sunday, July 6. We had approximately 180 teams participate in the three tournaments. We also had two weather delays in Albany (both on the same day!), none in Lake Placid, and one in Saratoga Springs…

The images, the sights and sounds, the wet clothes, the laughs, and the head-shaking are all fresh in my mind, so please allow me to make some observations.

First, let me say that most parents, coaches, and players are great. They enjoy themselves, say please and thank you, and are generous with their compliments. Believe me, you are greatly appreciated.

But let me say a few words about the others.

Parents, please, when we say that play has been suspended due to bad weather, don’t ignore us when we ask you to move off the fields and go to your cars (or a covered structure, like Albany’s football stadium or the brand new pavilion at Saratoga’s Gavin Park). A pop-up tent sitting under some trees is not a safe place. Two teenaged boys were killed by lightning in Pennsylvania last month; according to some brief research, there are approximately 43 lightning fatalities each year, and July is the deadliest month.

Our athletic trainers, as well as our SLV directors, are equipped with the latest technology, which tells how far away the lightning strikes are. Sometimes, in case you didn’t know, we don’t have to wait to see lightning before we make the decision to suspend play.

As a parent, I don’t know why I’d choose to keep my family under a pop-up instead of in my car. And what kind of lessons are we teaching our children? “Don’t listen to authority”? “Take chances; lightning won’t strike here”? I don’t get it. Just do as we ask…

I also don’t understand the behavior of parents (aka “fans”) on the sidelines. They say the strangest things sometimes. I heard one dad yell “That’s embarrassing!” at his own team when they threw the ball out bounds last week. Maybe it was his own kid; maybe it wasn’t – but does it matter? I mean, either way…

If I can dare make some observations… I believe parents are way too sensitive if their kid gets checked. If he falls down, there must have been a foul. If he gets checked successfully and/or doesn’t complete a pass or score a goal, there should have been a whistle. Sometimes the other kid – or the entire team – is simply better. Why can’t we accept that?

Why can’t we appreciate talent on both teams? Compliment good plays by both goalies, say “Nice pass” when the opponent sets up a teammate for an easy goal. I hear too many parents only cheer their own son – why not praise the goal-scorer and the assist-man for every goal? Instead of yelling at the face-off man, why not encourage all three face-off unit members? I’ve seen too many parents cheer for their son and their son only - learn the names of your son’s teammates and encourage them, too.

More than once in the past ten days, we’ve stepped in between groups of parents who got into verbal altercations with one another while their sons were playing. In my opinion, this happens because parents shout out too much information, like “Hey, ref, that kid hit our kid in the head! Throw the flag!” and “He’s been doing that all game!”

Don’t make it personal. That’s not cheering; that’s finger-pointing, and no one I know likes to have fingers of blame pointed at them – or their son.

As a parent, coach, referee, fan, tournament director, and writer, can I suggest trying these alternatives at your son’s next game:

“Ouch!” when you think a player has been fouled. That’s all. The ref will hear you, and the chances of the aggressor’s parents getting angry are decreased.

“Hey now!” when you think the referee might have missed a call.

“Sir!” (my son brought this one home from college – note the respect implied).

When used in moderation, these responses will probably avoid embarrassment and prevent the chance of altercation.

And instead of screaming “Shoot low!” when your son gets stuffed by the other team’s goalie, call out “Nice save!” Leave the strategic shooting suggestions to your son’s coach, and earn the respect and appreciation of the other goalie’s parents, who might just be sitting 15 feet away.

With very few exceptions, the behavior of the players, coaches, and referees was excellent at these three tournaments. Please, parents, it’s time to step up your game, too.

Thanks – and please drive carefully!

- Dan Witmer daniel.witmer@oswego.edu

Dan Witmer is the author of two books.  The Best of Road Trip Dad – the Laker Lacrosse Collection  is an accumulation of 45 articles written for JustLacrosseUpstate between the years 2012 and 2018, about the history and traditions, the people, and the stories of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program. The book is available on Amazon.com, and at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, the SUNY Oswego College Store in the Marano Campus Center, The Sports Outfit on West Genesee Street in Fairmount, and Geared 2 Sports in Cortland.  ...and piles to go before I sleep - The Book of Wit  is his memoir describing his 33 year career teaching HS English and coaching at Hannibal Central School. It is available on Amazon.com and at the river's end bookstore.