Parents & Youth Sports: Things to Remember When Spectating

My good friend was a very successful high school baseball coach for more than 20 years, and most of his career was spent coaching at one school. I once asked him, “What is your dream job?”

His answer took me by surprise.

“Coaching at an orphanage,” he said. “No parents at any of the games.”

He was joking, but I never forgot his words. At the time, my friend was already a veteran coach and my wife and I had no children, so I didn’t fully understand. Now, 15 years and three boys later, I get it—parents and youth sporting events are not always a great mix.

I have been at AAU basketball games with my children where parents have been ejected from the game and settled things in the parking lot. I have coached youth soccer games where more than one parent has been asked to leave the field.

And then there are youth baseball games. The time between plays apparently is just too tempting for many parents to remain silent and not inject “expert advice” to their kids, coaches and umpires.

Even on normal, calm days, parenting at youth games can be stressful.

Making Your Kids’ Games Less Stressful
So, as a youth parent, how do you stay above the fray and maintain your dignity and the respect of others? The best way is to take an inventory of what stresses you out the most at your child’s games:

  • Is it the officiating?
  • Maybe it’s your child’s coach?
  • Do other parents on your team get your blood pressure going?
  • Does your child’s performance get the best of you when he’s not playing well?

If none of these ruffle your feathers, ask your spouse their opinion of your behavior. Better yet, go through the list again by yourself. Once you pin down the stress triggers, here are four tips on how to improve your performance when your child plays sports:

  1. If it’s the officiating that bothers you, self-impose a simple rule: When you feel like yelling at an official during a game, stop. Close your eyes. Turn your back. Count to 20. Do something. Anything, but yelling. If none of that works, imagine it’s a loved one out there officiating, perhaps an older child of yours, a niece or a nephew. Would you want them to be on the receiving end of the comment you were about to make?
  2. If your child’s coach often causes your anguish, don’t confront them at the field or court right after a game. Wait 24 hours.
  3. If the other parents on your child’s team are way behind in sideline etiquette, then maybe it’s best to move to another part of the sideline or court. If you are at a baseball field, consider sitting along one of the foul lines instead of behind home plate with others. Of course, you run the risk of being considered antisocial, but you can always chat before or after games.
  4. If your child is having a bad game, don’t verbally take it out on them or become antisocial with others.

Here are a few other tips that may seem obvious, but many parents overlook:

  1. Always be humble and gracious with other families.
  2. Balance your praise for your child and her teammates.
  3. Encourage those who may need it the most.

These tips will help you remain focused on the positive and help shut out the craziness that is likely to happen from time to time.

Tip: If you’re dealing with a child that has less-than-desirable sportsmanlike conduct, here are a few simple tips on how to teach kids good sportsmanship.

Watching your child play should be a joyful experience. Give some thought in advance on how to keep it that way. Your child, spouse and others will appreciate your effort.

More Articles from Land O'Moms