Parents in the Stands

By May 9, 2014 4 Comments
crazy sports parents

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!


Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Kyle,
    Great post as always. Parents are such an important part of the whole youth athletic equation. When they do thing right, they are a key to a kid having a great experience; unfortunately, they can also be one of the biggest detriments to the experience being a positive one for kids and coaches alike.

    You really need to check out some of Proactive Coaching’s materials and presentations (if you haven’t already). With regards to your post today, you would love “The Role of Parents in Athletics” presentation that we do and the booklet that goes with it. I know we have presented in Missouri numerous times, and I imagine we will be somewhere there this summer or fall. (In fact, one of our directors, Rob Miller, lives in Missouri, and I think he speaks there fairly often.)

    If you haven’t checked out our Facebook page, get on it and “Like” it, and you will join the 73,000+ coaches, athletes, and parents that get 3 or 4 great coaching/leadership nuggets everyday –

  • kelmendorf says:

    Thanks Scott, I appreciate it. Your facebook page is awesome, I love the content that is shared on it! I will check out some of the other presentations as well. Thanks for all you do help coaches and athletes, it’s awesome!

    Have a great weekend,

  • SLVB32 says:

    Hi Coach,

    Here’s some tips for parents who have trouble with self control.

    1) If you can’t stop coaching from the stands and criticizing the players, coaches and officials, don’t sit in the stands! Watch from the car, sit behind the outfield fence or find some other vantage point where you won’t be heard by anyone.

    2) If you routinely make the ride home miserable for your kid, try listening to audiobooks instead. During my two kids travel seasons, we listened to the entire Harry Potter series driving from game to game.

    3) If you behave like an idiot at the games, get one of the many parents with cameras to film you while in one of your tirades and watch it later at home. I bet you have no idea how you look and sound.

    Unfortunately the parents who need it the most are least likely to take advice.

    Thanks and Happy Mother’s Day!


  • kelmendorf says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Those all great suggestions, especially having someone film. Film never lies. And you are right, unfortunately the ones that need help the most are least likely to ask for it.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!