In Parents' Role in Youth Sports, Problems in Youth Sports

A U-13 soccer game had to be suddenly stopped because two mothers of players on each opposing team began physically fighting and rolling around in the mud, kicking, screaming and slugging each other. What earth shattering, critically important issue could have led them to resort to fighting? Ironically one of the mothers had criticized the overtly physical play of the other’s son. And just like that, the game had to be discontinued while all 22 young boys gathered around to watch this gruesome and embarrassing spectacle of adult inappropriateness.

Let’s all try to remember something critically important here: Our kids’ sports are for our kids, NOT for us! It’s their learning, enjoyment and participation that’s important, NOT ours! Kids’ sports are for the kids, NOT for the kids’ parents.

What this means is that when you are on the sidelines watching your children compete, you want to behave yourself! You want to act appropriately. You want to keep this whole competitive sports thing in perspective.

So ask yourself a few questions here: How would my child want me to act as I watch him/her compete? How do I need to conduct myself so that my child is most proud to call me his/her mom or dad? What kinds of sidelines behaviors would most embarrass my child? What kinds of behaviors do I want to model for my child so that when he/she is older and has my grandchildren, he/she can teach them as well?

Remember what’s at stake here. This is not about the outcome of a silly, insignificant soccer/ baseball/football game. This is not about whether the team wins or loses, qualifies for State or fails to make the playoffs. This is far more important. What’s at stake here are valuable and lasting life lessons. Every time your child steps onto the field or court, everytime they see you behave in various situations, you are teaching them life lessons. Even when you don’t want to be teaching them these life lessons, you are! So what do you want them to learn from your behaviors?

On the sidelines be a good sport! Cheer for good plays whether they come from your child, a teammate or an opponent. Do not cheer as if you were at a pro sports game and you were yelling and screaming at the “enemy” opponent. Your child’s opponents are not the enemy. They are in fact, other boys and girls just like your child. They have feelings, sensitivities and vulnerabilities and can be just as easily traumatized by adults as your child can. In fact, treat your child’s opponents exactly how you would treat your own child!

Do NOT coach from the sidelines. You are NOT the coach. Your child can’t use whatever you’re saying anyway because if he/she actually takes the time to listen to you, your comments will only tend to distract him/her from the flow of the game. Do NOT yell at your child’s opponents and criticize their play. This is not what appropriate adults do. You embarrass yourself when you do this because you are acting like a bully.

Instead, enjoy the fact that your child is participating in something that makes him/her happy and feel good. Take it upon yourself to protect this experience for them so that they can continue to act like a child, relax, have fun and feel good about themselves. Smile, enjoy that you’re not at work and keep yourself emotionally in control. Should strong emotions begin to bubble up inside of you as the game goes on, talk to your adult partner about them, keep them to yourself and protect your children from them. Your emotions do NOT have a place on the sidelines when your kids compete!


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