3:33 Sports Short #7 // Drone Dads: Killing It on the Youth Soccer Field

by Jen Karetnick

Filed under: 3:33 Sports Shorts, Blog |

Forget the clueless but cheerful soccer mom with her SUV hatchback spilling uniforms and her ponytail threaded through her sequined ball cap. We’ve got a more recent phenomenon out on the youth soccer field: the “Drone Dad” (DD).

What’s a DD? He’s the guy who pilots up and down the sidelines, conferencing with his kid at every opportunity. He may or may not know what he’s talking about. He may or may not have played or coached before. But he’s usually countermanding everything the real coach wants the player to do.

The DD constantly buzzes on about his own child. When the play goes well or the team scores and everyone cheers, the DD is screaming, “Good job, Tommy!” even if Tommy was nowhere near the ball. The DD wants his child to be navigating every single play, despite the other ten players on his side of the field. He’s always dropping bombs about his offspring’s next potential – and usually greatly inflated – opportunity: a position on this elite team or in that academy, Olympic development training, scholarships to Camp Futbol abroad. He’s not content unless every other parent around him acknowledges that his kid is the greatest player to ever hit the pitch. 

They also keep the area under constant surveillance. You can easily recognize a DD by the video camera in his hand. And they don’t just tape during games. The more expensive DD splices together reels of his kid’s best juggling and passing moments from practices and sends them around to managers of premier teams, making it look like he’s recorded them during games.

When the kids of DDs are benched, the DDs automatically blitz the coach, or the other players, or even the rest of the parents. This is the “loudmouth” feature that comes in all the standard DD models, but there’s special apps in the newer ones: With the press of a button, the DD can send emails, tweets and Facebook messages to everybody concerned. Press another, and it can escalate into threats.

Meanwhile, like young adults of helicopter parents who go to college, become depressed and can’t function without the constant whir of blades circling above them, the sons and daughters of DD often can’t even pass accurately unless the DD is hovering.

Unfortunately, DDs aren’t raising healthy children. They’re raising egos for social media humblebrag rights. Delusions of grandeur take root and grow like a sprout of lemongrass, which once it’s planted becomes a bush within days. At their least harmful, their offspring, who fail from accumulated stress, are merely unsportsmanlike, berating teammates for their own mistakes. But at their worst, they become just what you’d expect: explosive.

Jen Karetnick is the author of three full-length poetry collections, two forthcoming: American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing, May 2016) and The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press, September 2016). She has also published four poetry chapbooks and edited two anthologies of South Florida poets and writers, including A Run for Your Money: Poems from Hialeah (Tigertail Productions, February 2016). She works as the Creative Writing Director for grades 6-12 at Miami Arts Charter School; the dining critic for MIAMI Magazine; the South Florida blogger for Virgin Atlantic Airways; and a lifestyle journalist and cookbook author.