My View From The Country

In Defense Of Show Moms And Dads

Everyone who’s been involved in a county fair can probably relate an embarrassing story.

I can’t say enough about the industry’s youth programs and the opportunities they provide for our youth to develop and learn. I’ve heard it said thousands of times that the only thing wrong with our youth programs is the parents. There is probably a lot of truth in that statement, but parents are also the reason these programs survive and thrive.

Everyone who’s been involved in a county fair can probably relate an embarrassing story; one where parents almost came to blows or lost perspective about what the programs are really intended to do. I’m a parent and, like any other parent, I love my kids and want the best for them. It’s stressful to sit and watch your kids perform and compete. While I root for all kids to do well, I’ll admit that I’m far more interested in my own kids.

It isn’t about winning; after all, we knew before we ever walked into a show ring that even your best might not win you a ribbon. The idea is to maximize your performance and personal growth. Since becoming a parent, I’ve learned my new role is a lot harder than being the kid in the arena, show ring, playing field or on the stage. It’s difficult – knowing how hard your kids have worked and how much they want to succeed – to watch it play out from the stands.

Most of the time those show moms and dads are providing love, support and coaching. They’re often up early and sacrificing lots of mornings, evenings and weekends helping and hoping their children achieve their goals and aspirations. These parents are good people, who want their children to enjoy the thrills of victory and helping them through the stings of defeat.

Show parents sometimes get a bad rap. After all, we don’t get angy about the new mama cow that chases the dog that came too close to her calf; we understand it is maternal instinct. Similarly, I think it’s wise to steer clear of parents for at least 10 minutes after a heifer class; and maybe 30 minutes if it’s a national show. If their heifer was a close second to the eventual champion, I’d give it seven days.


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I was told this week about an incident at our local county fair, where two dads almost came to blows. Both are great guys, and pillars of the community. I don’t condone such behavior, but I also certainly understand how it happens.

I’ve had to make a couple of rules for myself as a horse show dad. I’ll never complain about a judge in public or in front of the kids; however, I do allow myself to make a couple snide comments to my wife. When a child falls short and doesn’t have the success he/she has worked so hard for, I’ll let them know I’m not disappointed in them but rather for them. I know it is not about the victory or defeat, but what they’ve become and learned in pursuing that goal.

Never condone the inappropriate actions and words of a show parent right after their precious child is handed a defeat. But never forget that there’s nothing harder or better than watching your kids chase their dreams.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 4

on Aug 16, 2013

Very well put! When people criticize other kids, the parents or even the judge, I ask, "how does that impact my child's learning?" My son still learned responsibility and the value of hard work; he also probably learned something about bovine nutrition and hair care, as well as how to clip and fit an animal. THAT is what it is all about--building a kid--not winning a trophy. Yes, a trophy is awfully nice, but only one wins. Does that make everyone else a loser? NO WAY! It all comes down to parenting.

I also extend the rule about not criticizing the judge to sports coaches. I may not like how the coach played the kids in a game, but my child still needs to respect that adult and give them 100% effort. If I am being outwardly critical, it doesn't encourage my child's respect for anyone.

It is all about the kids!!

on Aug 16, 2013

Vince Lombardi once said "The real glory is being knocked to your knees, then coming back". Without loss victory cannot be gained. Instead of being angry, teach your kids the value of defeat and what you can learn from it.

on Aug 16, 2013

I seemed to recall Lombardi saying winning is the only thing, or something of the sort.

Troy, I don't know if two guys who would almost come to blows over their kids placing in a county fair could be thought of as "great guys".

I once knew an old guy who's summation of showring judging was, "Standing in an arena and acting like you knew why one animal was better than another". Maybe not too far off?

Ted H. Smith (not verified)
on Aug 21, 2013

I love that! I think I will preface my next judging assignment with those very words.

A former hero of mine taught me to compete with fierce tenacity, accept defeat with dignity and win with humility. If you can do that, you are a winner! He was my high school principal and a man I will always remember.

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What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contributor Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.


Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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