There has been a lot of talk in the media about sport parents lately.  All too often we see another incredible video capturing parents behaving badly at their kids sport games.  Perhaps you’ve witnessed that parent in person?  Perhaps you are that parent?  Whether you’re a veteran sport parent or just entering the world of youth competitive sports, navigating it correctly is worthy of addressing because it has a big a big influence on our players physical, mental and emotional development on and off the field.

Professional soccer is known for being a bit theatrical.  Professional players seem to get away with arguing with referees more than any other sport.  Fans love to heckle and taunt tantrum-throwing players.  And we’ll hardly admit it but we also seem to have a love/hate relationship a good staged flop.  Being incredibly vocal at a professional soccer game seems almost expected and all a part of the experience.  But that same bold behavior at a youth soccer game doesn’t go over well.  Teaching good sportsmanship is important and it comes first and foremost from parents.

(Photo cred: CFC_08_Girls).

  1. Be the example.  Players look to their parents and guardians as the example on behavior.  If you behave inappropriately, so will they (and vice versa).  Are you a screaming maniac on the sideline or shouting words of encouragement?  If you show good sportsmanship, you child will also.
  2. Remember, they have a coach.  You’re paying a coach for a reason.  Let the coach coach.  I’ve had several coaches address the parents during the games that our role was to support with encouragement only.  Parents were asked not to yell out directions to players, period.  When parents are yelling at players, the players can’t hear the coach. The coach also discouraged parents from yelling at the refs.  Even if the ref makes a bad call it’s the coaches job to point that out.  Parents yelling at the ref, opposing coaches or parents only aggravates them and tends to backfire.
  3. It’s not all about winning.  Losing a game is just as valuable experience (sometimes more so) than winning.  It teaches players (and parents) valuable lesson about sportsmanship, goal setting and failing forward.  Allowing your child sit with the experience of losing is all a part of life and teaches them self-discipline, learning, courage and perseverance.
  4. Be careful about gossip.  Remember the saying, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”?  It applies in sports as well.  Inevitably, there will great players and not so great players on your child’s team.  Pointing out Johnny’s missed kick or Sally’s lack of speed undermines team unity and puts negativity about other team members in your child’s head.  The same goes for talking negatively about a coach or parent.
  5. Encourage, don’t criticize.  Youth sports is meant to be a positive, esteem-building experience.  Many players burn out due to the unreachable expectations parents place on them.  Sometimes parents are trying to fulfill their childhood dreams through their own children.  It’s important to remember that encouragement often goes a lot further that criticism.  Positive reinforcement if far more effective than scare tactics.  According to the NCAA: “More than 480,000 compete as NCAA athletes, and just a select few within each sport move on to compete at the professional or Olympic level.”  The chances of a child to go on and play professional sports based on the number of kids currently in competitive sports is highly improbable.  Not impossible but statistically improbable.  Enjoy the sport for what is providing for you child now.
  6. Put yourself in time-out. It’s likely we’ve all gotten to that place where we’ve lost our patience with a bad call, a mistake on the field, over-eager parents…before you lose your temper, recognize when you need a personal time-out.  It’s perfectly okay to get up from your chair on the sideline and go take a walk.  Removing yourself from the situation will do wonders to help you re-focus and settle down.
  7. Stay focused on why you started.  Most parents and players will say they enrolled in sports for exercise, socialization, to learn to be a good sport and enjoyment of the game.  If those things are being provided then that’s success.  All too often we tend to get wrapped up in winning, competitiveness, bad calls, politics, etc…all things that can lead to bad behavior. It’s important to remind yourself why you started when you get out of the car for the beginning of a game and when you get back in the car at the end of the game.

In the end, we’re hear to have fun and develop.  Please remember the influence you have not only on your children but on the other players, parents, coaches and spectators on the field.
Behavior is contagious whether good or bad.


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