What can be better than watching your child play in a youth sport? It’s a special time in the lives of you and your child that should be cherished. The problem is this magical experience is getting ruined by parents in the stands. This week we’ll discuss five rules for parental support from the stands.
In my 14 years of coaching I have seen and heard about almost anything you can think of when it comes parental behavior. I’ve broken up fights, witnessed verbal abuse, and have seen the impact it has on kids. Before coaching, I was a referee for youth basketball for several years and again witnessed horrendous behavior by adults in the stands. This needs to change, as it is tarnishing the innocence and splendor of youth sports.
Parents, the games are about the kids, not you. Be a proud parent, not an obnoxious one. Support your child without overwhelming them. Give them some breathing room to be a kid and enjoy the experience. Here are five guidelines to follow as a parent in the stands.
1) Don’t coach from the stands. Be seen and heard only shouting or cheering positive words. Your child doesn’t need you to coach from the stands; they already have one on the bench. Smile at your child during the game. You’d be surprised what a smile and simple nod of approval will do for your son or daughter’s esteem. Parents must trust the coach and allow him or her to do the job at hand. They don’t need your help from the stands during game. If you don’t trust the coach, it’s time to find another team.
2) Don’t belittle other players or the officials. No parent would stand for another adult calling out or criticizing their child. This is how many fights start in the stands. So let’s just avoid this altogether and stop critiquing other people’s children. After all, they’re just kids, not professionals. As for officials, the vast majority of them are in it for the right reasons. They love the sport and want to give back while making a little bit of money. I know from firsthand experience as a youth official how awful parents can be in the stands. Officials will miss calls– they are human– so don’t work yourself up into a frenzy arguing calls the entire game; it’s embarrassing for your child. When was the last time a call was overturned because of some parent’s complaint during the game? I don’t remember one either.
3) Provide positive support after the game. The last thing your son or daughter wants or needs after a game is for you to criticize everything they just did. Unfortunately I have seen this take place and the negative psychological effect it has on kids. Parents should avoid critiquing other players and coaches after game. Doing so is not going to foster sportsmanship or a team-first attitude with your child. However, parents should discuss the positives from the game and any life lessons that can be learned from it. Emphasize the fun of the game at every opportunity and if your child is not having fun, it’s time for a serious discussion as to why. Do they no longer enjoy it? Is there too much pressure on them? Find out.
4) Remember that it’s all about the experience. The ultimate goal of participating in youth sports should be for all involved to have a positive experience. It’s not about the wins and losses. Rather it’s about the memories made, life lessons learned, and the relationships built. Sports can do so many positive things for kids throughout their lives. We cannot ruin this opportunity for them. It’s about the kids and making their experience memorable for the rest of their lives. It’s not about the adults.
5) Model the behavior you expect. Would you be proud of your child if they sat in the stands and ridiculed others, shouted verbal obscenities, and started physical confrontations? Of course not. So then why do we think it’s okay for us as adults to do so? It’s really rather simple, we must model the behavior that you expect from your own child. Our lasting legacy will be measured through the generations that will follow us. We can use sport in a positive way to raise another great generation.
What are some other parental guidelines you feel are appropriate for youth sports?
As always, thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!