10 Tips for Child Sports

First off, I believe that sports programs should review expectations and have parents sign a contract or code of conduct prior to the season to get everyone on board.  My hope is that incidents of “out of control” parents will become obsolete at some point.

  1. Check your attitude at the door. Model your behavior as you would want your children to behave. If you are respectful and maintain self-control then your children are more likely to do so. If you are screaming at the coach, players, officials, and berating decisions then your child may not only become anxious and embarrassed but may act out in anger and frustration.
  2. If you have an “out of control” parent amongst you there are several options.  Use empathy and say something like “I know it is hard to stay calm during these games. It is supposed to be fun for the kids”.  You can choose to say something to the coach so that he can remind the parent(s) of the good sportsmanship rules and of the contract that they signed prior to the season.  If the parents do not “behave” in a respectful manner they may be asked to leave the game by the officials/coach.  Some parents have been banned for the season. Ouch!
  3. Limit suggestions to your player. If every game has to have a teaching moment afterwards between the parent and child, the player may become anxious about his/her performances. Let them ask you for feedback, and provide “open” play time that is viewed as fun and not always practice.
  4. Remember the game is for the children, although, as parents, we enjoy watching our kids play. One thing to remember though is that their performance is not a direct reflection of our parenting skills, or of our own sports abilities. Just because your child may not be the “best” kid on the team in terms of scoring goals does not mean that he isn’t having fun, learning, exercising, and developing camaraderie and good sportsmanship.
  5. If you see a parent that is frustrated over their child’s performance or playtime, be a good listener (away from earshot of the kids).  If it is a matter of coaching judgments where a player is clearly not getting the allotted time that all the other youngsters are receiving, consider encouraging the parent to talk with the coach.  Sometimes there is a lot of confusion during games and the coach may be making a slip that he/she are unaware of.  If the parent doesn’t feel comfortable and you do, you might consider mentioning the fact that you think there are some kids that are not getting the allotted time to play and that you just want everyone to have a good experience.  Many times kids will speak up and say something to the coach.  Teaching your own child to speak up and talk with coaches about issues that are bothering a team helps them problem-solve on their own.  The important thing is that coaches vary and are human just like the rest of us.  Coaches, Referees, Players— all make mistakes.  Life isn’t perfect.  We learn from our mistakes when given the opportunity to make them.
  6. You are not your child. Embrace your strengths and challenges.
  7. Often the most intolerant parent is coming to the sporting event with other anger issues. Perhaps he or she isn’t happy or is extremely stressed and saves it all for the “game”. If you sense that everyone moves away from where you are sitting, you may be one of those.  Listen to yourself, what is your child hearing? Are you coming home from the games with a headache?   Are you the one screaming or sitting next to the “screamer”?  When a parent isn’t feeling particularly good about themselves, or thinks that he or she is in the game rather than their child, then they may have difficulty controlling their emotions.
  8. Participate in outside activities and sports as a family to provide a variety of recreational fitness.  Biking, hiking, swimming, badminton, anything that has you moving will add to your child’s repertoire of fitness.  When he or she becomes an adult they can discover which activities fuel their bodies and provide enjoyment.  If we “make” our kids stick to one sport and do not allow them to ever explore, there is a chance that they will burn out by high school and walk away from it.  The human psyche desires fun and physical fitness fulfills our primitive need to expend energy along with enjoying ourselves.
  9. Don’t cheat at games.  Kids know how to count!
  10. Enjoy watching your children smile, laugh, and have fun. Time goes very fast.  And in doing so, enjoy watching yourself smile, laugh, and have fun.