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Take a Breath and Let Kids Enjoy the Sport

Heated arguments and violent acts unfortunately are becoming commonplace on the sidelines of sporting events. What’s more disturbing is that these incidents are not just occurring at professional contests, but now more commonly at youth and high school games. Somewhere along the way, “it’s how you play the game” has been replaced by “win at all costs.” It is because of this loss of perspective that the purity of youth sport is threatened. So how do we fix this issue and make it better. First, as parents, we need to remember why we are present at these events. It’s to cheer on our children and support them as they have fun and develop relationships. Parents are much more involved in their children’s’ activities than in previous eras. Many times, unrealistic goals and dreams are set. They invest significant time and money into their children with the hope that this will result in championships, college scholarships, or professional careers. When things don’t go as planned or other children are more successful, ego can come into play and lead to irrational behavior, as they vent frustration. Stopping this from getting to a boiling point is the key to avoiding these incidents. Here are few key tips to managing expectations and anger on the sidelines:

  • Understand what the goals and desires of your children are—Make sports participation fun and enjoyable regardless of the outcome

  • Encourage fair play and sportsmanship

  • Take a deep breath—Use the old reliable “count to 10” method.

  • Avoid shouting matches and confrontation with other parents— Bad behavior in front of your children can be embarrassing to them, and cause undue stress. It also sets a bad example where young individuals may think that this behavior is acceptable and the norm

  • Respect the coaches and officials— Many are volunteers and without them, games and events would not occur

  • If there are concerns, they should be addressed in private. Most times, children do not appreciate “bad calls” and are more interested in having fun.

Finally, many leagues and events have developed and implemented a parents’ code of conduct. This code outlines the appropriate behavior expected at events. These allow organizations to discipline and remove individuals who continually exhibit inappropriate behavior and remove potential altercations. Youth sports are a great way to develop character and sportsmanship. It is our job as parents and spectators to set the appropriate example to nurture these qualities so that enjoyment of athletic completion is not lost and continues for a lifetime.

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