No one wants to be the embarrassing parent in the stands at their child’s game. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and emotion of your child’s game, but when this excitement crosses over into bad behavior, it makes the game less fun for everyone. When asked about their worst memories from youth and high school sports, college athletes reported that their worst memories were in the car rides home from games with their parents. Avoid becoming the insufferable parent that drives your child to quit sports. Here are five tips to consider:
Let Go of Your Worries
This isn’t the same as not caring about your child’s success or the success of the team: it means taking the games for what they are. Youth sports are opportunities for your child to play games and make friends, and any other benefits are extra. When you let go of your concerns about your child’s future in the sport or the outcome of individual games, you and your child will both enjoy the experience much more.
Be a Good Sport
Your child is learning sportsmanship in athletics, and it’s an important lesson for parents to keep in mind as well. Cheer when you need to, but keep it positive and cheer for everyone on the team. Be friendly with the other parents in the stands, but don’t make the games about being popular. Avoid undermining the coach or officials—kids who are distracted by their parents can’t perform during the game, and parents who complain or second-guess officials afterward confuse athletes who need to know who to listen to. Your child will model their behavior based on how you act, so set a good example for them, whether you’re in the stands or picking up a post-game snack.
Know Your Role and Stick to It
Your child will switch between athlete and child pretty quickly after a game, and you should be just as flexible whether you’re a spectator or a coach. Choose your role and be aware of it. If you’re not the coach, don’t bring up playing time, strategies, other children, or team management. If you’re a spectator, your job is to cheer and be positive, not criticize the officials, the coaches, or even your child. Think about what really matters in that moment and be mindful of your role in your child’s athletic career.
Remember That It’s About Your Child, Not You
Take your cues from your child. If they don’t care that their team lost the game, neither should you. Don’t project your feelings or previous sports successes on them. This is their time to learn, grow, and discover their likes and dislikes, not the time for you to live out your own dreams. Additionally, let your child’s sports be about them, and don’t take credit for their victories. Encourage their independence and risk-taking in a safe environment so that they own their experiences, and you can relax and enjoy the game.
Be Attentive and Encouraging
Attend as many games as you can and support your child’s decisions about sports. Always be ready with a positive whether the team wins or loses, especially if the game doesn’t go well. Pay attention to how your child feels about the game and discuss their mental and physical health with their coach when appropriate. Let your child bring the game to you instead of talking about it right away, and answer any questions they ask as best as you can. Above all else, remember and use the words “I love watching you play” because that’s all your young athlete really needs to hear.
Keep parents in the loop with a public view of your school and its teams
Student-athletes require positive, supportive communities in order to get the most out of their education and athletic experiences. Athletic directors can help keep parents positively engaged and build a community of support with tools like ArbiterLive by ArbiterSports. Parents, students, athletes, and fans can view what’s happening with their favorite team through a customized website. Fans can also purchase custom gear through an online store that can help you support your program. For more information on ArbiterLive or any of ArbiterSports’ other officiating tools, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800.576.2799.