Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Kids Sports: Stop the Insanity!

Let's face it, any parent who has an athletic child has been witness to some of the most lunatic parenting on the face of the planet. We've all seen it . Sometimes it's the librarian who becomes more argumentative than a crack addict on steroids. It could be the lawyer who paces the sidelines barking orders at their child (or, God forbid, other children). Or, yes, even a full-time mom can find herself suddenly incapable of recognizing her child's strengths or accepting a compliment on their child's behalf, answering with a list of shortcomings instead of a smile and a thank-you. Sports can make grown-ups into crazy people.

I have to admit, I teeter on the edge of lunacy myself. One thing is for sure, I am one of the loudest parents on the sideline. I just can't help myself -- I love watching my kids play. But I sometimes wonder whether other parents are looking at me sideways, wondering, "Who is that lady?!?" I convince myself that volume alone doesn't make me an obnoxious sports parent (does it?)

Just to be sure, I try to follow a few guidelines to stave off a case of the crazies:

Keep It Positive -- If you are an involuntary yeller (like I am), make sure you're yelling out something you can be proud of later. Saying "good job" or "nice try" or "you can do it" is always better than saying something insulting or letting out a groan if things don't go your way. You are your children's best source of encouragement. You are also their best example of good sportsmanship.

Practices are for Coaching and Games are for Fans -- Your first job on the sideline of your child's game is to be their fan. I always send my sons onto the field with a smile and a twinkling eye. "Have fun! I can't wait to watch you play!" I say as they run to meet their team. Giving your child the gift of unqualified support can make a tremendous difference for them. (I'll admit there was a learning curve for me on this one. I used to use the last 5 minutes before a game to review "teaching points" from practice, but I have truly found that only made my child more self-conscious about his play. But when I assure him that he's my favorite player on the team, he glows. As a result, his head and heart are in the game, from start to finish.)

Keep your Expectations in Line -- I remember when my son started soccer at age 4. It was all we could do to get the team kicking the ball in the right direction. Still, there were parents who questioned the coach or worried excessively about whether the team was winning enough. I felt like explaining that this wasn't the World Cup, it was pee-wee soccer! In retrospect, I doubt that would have made much difference. Still, a dose of perspective is never unwarranted. Focus on your child's own skills. They don't have to be Ronaldhino or A-Rod or Kevin Garnett to be your favorite player. Let them be who they are and love them for that.

Be Even-handed with Praise -- We all know that as a parent, our first concern is our own child. But getting to know your child's team-mates and giving them a cheer when they make a great play reinforces to your child what it means to be a team. Athletics is about making friends as much as it is about individual accomplishment. So, get to know the other parents on the sidelines and spread your positive comments around.

Because I am such a loud fan, I usually try to look over my shoulder and make sure I'm not bothering anyone. I also cheer when the opposing team makes a great play. There is nothing wrong with recognizing excellence, regardless of which team shows it. And I find that positivity can be contagious... even among die-hard athletic parents.

So, remember, sports are meant to be an opportunity to learn and have fun! If you focus on the really enjoying the game, your child will too.

That's always a good thing.

- Midwest Mom


  1. I would have loved to hear some examples of parental lunacy but I understand you need to protect the rights of the other parents haha.

    These are great guidelines to follow, I think kids remember the coaches and sideline parents more than the games at this age.

  2. Well said!!! Especially about keeping it positive...I seriously hate watching/listening to parents berate their or another child.

    Crazy grandparent story...Last year, when my dd was playing soccer, a set of grandparents was talking bad about everyone (except their precious grandson who was "playing perfectly"), especially the defense, which my dd was on. I finally had enough and told them leave the kids alone, they're playing how the coach told them to. Grrr....some people!

  3. Excellent post! Coaching youth atheletics for over a dozen years, and maybe becoming a bit jaded by the parents of the soon to be *allstars*, it's refreshing to read/hear some common sense!

    Thank you!

  4. Laurie --

    Yep. Too many 'locals' that could inadvertently find themselves reading their own antics online (everyone's nightmare!)

    Signe --

    Grandparents! Are you kidding?!? We are so blessed to have my husband's father live close to us. He surprises the kids by coming to games off and on throughout baseball or soccer season. They love it. His presence means so much.

    whiteline --

    Thanks, buddy. I firmly believe that coaches and teachers can be some of the best people on the planet. Don't get jaded. There *are* sane parents out there! ;)


  5. Great insight. Although my children are grown, I have young grandchildren. We need more parents like you.

  6. My son plays football and my daughter plays soccer and appreciated this post! Not just for those "crazy" parents out there but for ME too!! LOL


  7. Papercages -- Thanks! Our boys are so blessed that their grandfather comes to their games. I just *know* it is important to them! He hasn't missed a soccer game yet this season!

    Farrah -- Thanks for sharing it with your kids! I think wacko sports parenting is a universal phenomenon!

  8. I have a 6 and a 5 year old and neither of them have been attracted to team sports yet. So far it is just dancing, swimming and karate but that fills the week.

    My brother marches up and down the soccer field with his kids and tells them what to do every moment of the game. During breaks he tells them exactly what they did wrong and makes them admit that they weren't trying that hard. I feel so badly for them sometimes.


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