Fall is the season for youth sports to swing back into action. Not surprisingly, fall is also the time of year when poor parental behavior at youth sporting events also ramps up. As a long-time coach, coach trainer, and official, I am happy to report that most parents are well-behaved adults. But as a long-time coach, coach trainer, and official, I have also seen parental behavior that crossed the line from boorish to criminal.
5 rules of respect for youth sports.
- The game. Simple, if you don’t understand the rules of the game and its ethos, sit there and shut up. Soccer is a contact sport. Don’t complain when kids run into each other. If you can’t tell the blue line from blue ice falling from a jetliner, don’t start screaming about off-sides. Respect the game.
- The other parents. Every parent at the game wants his/her kid to do well. Cheering for your kid is good. When it comes to other kids, if you wouldn’t want to hear it about your kid, STFU. Seriously. Just shut up. Crude language and taunting is disrespectful to the other parents. Respect the other parents.
- The coach. The coach of your kid’s team is certainly a volunteer. S/he gives up from 6-10 hours of leisure time every week to the team to help your kid learn game skills and life skills. That doesn’t include weekends at coaching clinics, and evening seminars. And off-field organization. And communication efforts. If your coach lacks skills, and you have some, volunteer to serve as part of the coaching staff. If your coach is poorly behaved, take it up with league administration. They want to know. The men and women who staff youth sport leagues are committed to providing a positive experience for the kids. Respect the coach.
- Respect the officials. Just like the coaches, officials spend a dozen hours every week to support fair play on the field. It is not be possible for youth sports to be played without these men and women. Do officials make mistakes? Absolutely, at every level from tee ball and coach-pitch on up to MLB. Tell you what-next time you decide to complain about the officials, march your butt over to the administrator at the fields and volunteer to be an official. Respect the officials.
- Respect the kids. Every kid does the best they can. They are not small people with adult level skills, coordination, and focus. They are children. They do not need a lard-ass dad with a big mouth screaming at them from the stands to “Get in there and hit somebody.” After a tough loss, ‘coaching’ them in the car is the last thing they need. They need some time and space to process the game. Later, use the oreo technique. Tell them a good thing they did, offer a correction, and then commend them for something. Don’t minimize the outcome. An eleven year old who has just skated her butt off for 30 minutes in a 5-2 loss doesn’t need to hear, “Well, it’s just a game. You’ll get another chance next week.” It is true that you need to focus on the process and not get hung up on the outcome. It is also true that for a few hours post-game, wins and losses do matter. That’s why we keep score and standings. After a win, let the kid enjoy the victory. Offer real praise. Offer high fives, ice cream, a hug. It may be just a house league game but to the kid, that’s their entire sports world.
Let me say it again: Respect the kids.
Respect the process. Youth sports leagues, at almost every level, are development leagues. We aim to develop young players who grow into good teens, and into good men and women. Don’t forget that along the way, we also develop good sports parents, coaches, and officials.