In Parents' Role in Youth Sports, Problems in Youth Sports, Winning/Losing

We’ve all seen them, the heated adults in the crowd or on the sidelines, shouting loudly and acting inappropriately during their children’s performances. Sometimes it’s even more subtle, where parents make negative comments or put unnecessary pressure on their kids before the game in private, setting high expectations and sending the message that their love depends on the outcome of the game.

When the heat of competition is turned way up high it seems even well-meaning parents have the potential to lose their composure and make spectacles of themselves. Don’t let this happen to you or any other parents you know!

Game day shouldn’t be looked at as any different from a practice day, except now it’s a little more fun and challenging because there are new opponents or more people are watching. It’s a fresh opportunity, that’s all. The more parents and other spectators are able to keep things in the proper perspective and play their role as the SUPPORTIVE AND ENCOURAGING ADULTS that they are, the better off their kids will actually perform!

Remember that it’s not your job to boo the opponents, get into arguments with the ref, etc. If you want your kids to believe in themselves, then you have to put your trust in them and have a positive attitude.

Here are some parental do’s and don’ts for game day:


  • Cheer loudly for your child (your primary job is to be his/her best fan)
  • Cheer loudly for every other player on your child’s team
  • Promote the importance of teamwork
  • Celebrate great plays, regardless of who makes them
  • Be supportive of the coach and ref and their decisions (if you must, take your concerns to them after the game at a mutually convenient time where you’ll communicate calmly)
  • Be positive, if you don’t have anything good to say just don’t say anything!
  • Enjoy being at this recreational just-for-fun event and relax
  • Act your age (you are, in fact, an adult)
  • Be a great role model, behave in a way you would want others to behave towards you or your child
  • Remember that the game is for your child, not for you
  • Encourage good sportsmanship and fair play
  • Make sure your child knows how proud you are of them no matter what
  • Be fully present in what’s happening so your child sees that you’re truly there for them


  • Criticize the coaching or officiating (this is not your job)
  • Complain to anyone about what you think is going wrong in the game
  • Coach your child – or any of their teammates – from the sidelines (unless you’d like to distract them and contribute to poor play)
  • Focus your child or their team on the importance of winning at any cost
  • Encourage selfish or unfair play
  • Be negative towards anyone, or even just fuming within yourself
  • Be argumentative with other parents, the refs, or coaches (again, if you feel strongly about their decisions then set a time to have a calm conversation about this later)
  • Think you know it all (sorry, but you don’t)
  • Model unsupportive conduct
  • Get loud, angry, or abusive (you only embarrass and distract your child when you do)
  • Use alcohol or drugs before or during the game
  • Yell at or harass your child’s opponents
  • Act like a child having a tantrum
  • Get physical with other parents, coaches, or players
  • Act like your life is riding on this game (it’s not)
  • Withhold love from your child if they don’t perform well (this is a big one, be aware so you don’t do this unconsciously)
  • Tie your child’s self-worth with winning or losing (they are great kids regardless of this game)
  • Live your life vicariously through your child and their sport
  • Get distracted with your phone, work, or anything that isn’t just watching the game

Game day is an opportunity for fun and excitement, and it’s a chance to make happy memories with your child. If you relax and just enjoy yourself while supporting your kid and their team then EVERYONE is likely to have a great day!


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