Read the following article , then take the quiz at the end about yourself as a parent, your child, and the game we love soccer. Be honest and see where you rate.
Without Sportsmanship, Youth Sports Loses
by Jim Thompson
It can be a significant moment when a parent bestows unto a child his or her first football, baseball glove or
pair of hockey skates, thereby introducing the youngster to the world of sports and competition. Many children
who receive such gifts this holiday season will immediately put their new gear to work - about 35 million
children compete in organized sports each year. But parent involvement should go well beyond providing the
Sports offer kids the opportunity for a fun, social and character-building experience, but beyond supplying
the equipment and throwing practice pitches in the back yard, many adults struggle with the responsible way
to be supportive mentors to their budding athletes.
Last year, a Long Island soccer mom allegedly hit her high school-aged daughter’s soccer coach in the face
with a folding chair because he failed to e-mail her proper directions to a game. And two Phoenix-area youth
football coaches were involved in a fight after a Pee Wee game involving 11- and 12-year-old players.
It’s no wonder that a study by Michigan State University’s Institute for the Study of Youth Sports found that
70 percent of kids participating in organized sports drop out by the age of 13. The reason? It’s no longer fun.
The reports of sports rage are all too common, but in my experience the good far outweighs the bad in youth
athletics. I’ve seen youth sports serve a great role in teaching many of life’s lessons. I’ve seen children learn
the concepts of teamwork and sacrifice. I’ve seen youth sports act as a catalyst that brings communities together
and builds relationships among people who otherwise might never have met.
We need to start creating role models for adults who are often confused and ill-equipped to handle the rush
of emotions that befall them when they see their children subjected to risks that can be found in any group
activity. Parents and coaches, who often simply are parents with little or no coaching training, should seek
resources that provide guidance on how to help children through challenges. These are life-learning opportunities!
The Responsible Sports program contains a number of tools to help parents and coaches put fun back in the
For example, one tool is a Mistake Ritual, a physical signal to encourage your child to “brush it off’’ and stay
positive during a game. When kids make mistakes they feel exposed and embarrassed, like the whole world
is laughing at them. Instead of a coach slamming a clipboard down and parents losing control of their emotions,
coaches and parents can make a motion with their hands to remind players to brush off the mistake.
This tells the player that the mistake is over and to get ready for the next play. The mistake rituals work -
kids have more fun and are more productive on the field.
Don’t underestimate the value of the lessons children learn on the field. Kids apply them in almost every aspect
of their daily lives. We want our kids to win, but even more we want them to be good people. We are at
a critical juncture, and parents and coaches have the power to make real changes and have a positive impact
on their children and teams. We all need to work as a team to put the fun back into sports for our kids.
Parental Cheers often Turn to Jeers
by Nick Schirripa
The scene is all-too familiar to many people who’ve attended a youth sporting event. The kids are playing, the
coaches are coaching and the officials are officiating. And somewhere in the bleachers, a few moms and dads are
yelling and complaining, taking the game far too seriously and often becoming a nuisance to others on and off the
field, court or rink.
In Battle Creek, Michigan, there were some 26,000 participants this year in 92 recreation department programs,
according to parks and recreation Director Jeff Hovarter. Many participants are children, and with them come all
kinds of parents and a long list of concerns and problems, including negative comments, poor and unruly behavior
and inappropriate pressure on players, officials and coaches.
INTO THE GAME
As athletes and sports fans, the idea of having and being passionate about favorite players and teams is an accepted
part of our sports culture. Experts say that culture, in addition to parents’ increasing commitments and expectations
and an increased emphasis on winning, plays a significant role in shaping parents’ behaviors.
While statistical data is hard to come by, there have been plenty of reported instances of parents behaving badly
at youth sporting events. In October 2006, a father in Philadelphia was charged with aggravated assault and other
offenses after pulling a gun on a youth football coach because his son wasn’t getting enough playing time.
In Reading, Mass., two dads got into a fight after a hockey practice in July 2000 that resulted in the death of one
dad and prison time for the other, who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Poor behavior isn’t unique to youth sports in the United States, either. In October 2005, in the English community
of Shillington, residents were at odds over parents’ boisterous obscenities and one father even urinated near the
field during youth soccer games.
Pat Horan of Battle Creek, a father of five children who are or have been involved in youth athletics, said he has
witnessed poor behavior by other parents at sporting events, including a soccer tournament in Indianapolis for his
10-year-old son. "The referee had to stop the match one time and go over to parents and say, ’You have to control
yourselves,’" he said. "It was really embarrassing." The referee had to stop the game a second time and
threaten the parents with forfeiting the game, Horan said. "It was just so sad to see."
Horan said he’s developed his own strategy for dealing with obnoxious parents in the stands - move to another
section and enjoy the game, but he wondered if parents are aware how their behavior is perceived by others.
"If they could see a video of themselves, they probably wouldn’t act that way," he said. "Over the years, I’ve never
seen an official say, ’You know, you’re right. I’m going to change my call because of the comment you made.’ At
the end of the day, it’s just pretty ridiculous."
PRESSURED INTO QUITTING
Horan said some athletes ultimately quit because of parental pressure.
"Sports are supposed to be fun," he said. "Parents have taken it to the level where sports just aren’t fun anymore."
Austin Rinard, a senior at Homer High School and a baseball and basketball player, has been in high-pressure
games including a high school state championship baseball game in 2006 and said he knows how parents can behave
in the stands. "When I’m playing, I kind of zone it out, but I’m very aware of people that do it," he said. "We
have one guy who’s a teacher and he yells at the officials constantly."
While emotions can run high, Rinard said constant badgering or yelling from the stands is not constructive. "I
don’t mind if there’s one bad call and they say something to a ref, but if they’re hounding them the whole game,
it’s not going to help Homer by doing that," he said.
Rinard said he hasn’t seen parents’ behavior affect players, even though the behaviors worsen as athletes move
up the ranks and contests become more important. Instead, he said, many parents, including his own, notice
poor behaviors and try to behave more appropriately themselves. "My parents say, ’I heard so-and-so’s mom
yelling again,’" he said. "They say it in the attitude of ‘they need to shut up’, for everyone’s sake."
KEEPING IT POSITIVE
Stacy Pierce of Battle Creek admits she’s one of those parents. She yells from the stands, but said it’s not negative.
It’s just that she’s so far away from Max, her 4-year-old son, and she wants to be involved. "I don’t yell at
him negatively," she said, "but I do think I expect too much of him sometimes."
Max plays ice hockey in the Battle Creek Hockey Association, and Pierce said he also plays baseball and soccer.
The yelling may be more for her sake, Pierce said, and she really tries to keep it positive. "The first thing I always
say to him when he comes off the ice is, ’Good job, Max,’" she said. "Max sometimes loses focus. I have a
really hard time sometimes remembering he’s 4. If I see him doing a drill and he’s only half doing it, I yell. If he
spends too much time laying on the ice, I yell.
"I want him to learn the skills of listening and doing what he’s supposed to do. He can get so much out of
sports, especially hockey, like learning how to be part of a team, having respect for others and just having fun
playing a game." Pierce said her husband, Grady, is much quieter when he’s watching his son. "I sit back and
look at what he’s doing, assess the positive things and the negative things," Grady Pierce said. "I’d rather talk
about it with him off-ice than while he’s on the ice." Grady Pierce said his wife comes from a competitive family,
which may explain her passion and volume as a spectator. "She has all good intentions. She wants Max to enjoy
whatever he’s doing, but she also has that inborn fire," he said. "Max knows where it’s coming from. There’s no
negativity. It’s encouraging him to get back up when he falls."
FOR THE KIDS
With experience officiating youth baseball, softball and floor hockey, Pierce said he’s been around some obnoxious
parents. No matter how passionate, excited, angry or disappointed parents get with their children’s athletics,
Pierce said the sports should be for the kids. "The kids have to be fired up about the sport," he said. "You
can’t be fired up for them. Either the kids want to participate, or they don’t."
Terry Newton, athletic director for St. Philip Catholic High School, said the school holds meetings to discuss the
"dos and don’ts" with parents of St. Philip athletes. "We ask the kids and coaches to remember that they’re representing
the school, and I think the parents have to fall under that same umbrella," he said. "We have a lot of
parents today who have such a vested interest in their children, which is a good thing, but they get caught up in
living their life through their child being on a field or on a court or something," he said. "You try to say, ’Let the
kids play, let the people coach. This is not life or death.’"
Experts say there are a few reasons for the increase in parents’ obnoxious behavior at their children’s games and
practices. Dan Gould, a nationally renowned sports psychologist and director of the Michigan State University
Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, pointed to two specific reasons: The professionalization of children’s
games, and the perceived link between parenting skills and children’s accomplishments and failures.
PARENTS FEELING PRESSURE, TOO
With the growth in popularity of sports and the only measure of success for professional athletes being winning or losing,
Gould said many parents aren’t aware of any other measurement for their child’s sporting success: Winning equals success.
"There’s no other way to get a grade," Gould said.
Gould also said over the past few decades, the success or failure of children has been linked more closely with parents. If
children aren’t perceived as successful, he said, parents are more likely to be perceived as less successful by their peers.
Even with more pressure on parents, Gould said spectators shouldn’t fall into the trap of automatically blaming parents.
"I’ve found there is a positive side to over-involved parents, and it’s that they’re involved in a time when we hear we’re
not involved enough with our kids," he said. "They think they’re acting in the best interests of their children."
Hovarter, director of Battle Creek Parks and Recreation, said kids and parents are encouraged to get involved in athletics
because of the healthy lifestyle they promote. In past generations, kids were athletic on their own, Hovarter said, playing
pick-up games with other kids in the neighborhood. Today, parents are more likely to enroll their children in organized
leagues and invest time, money and resources for those opportunities. Hovarter said it’s that large emotional investment
by parents that can lead to problems in the bleachers. "Kids still go play for a lot of the right reasons. I don’t think kids
compete differently than they did 20 or 30 years ago," he said. "For parents, when your child isn’t successful or isn’t
treated fairly, it’s such an emotional investment and there’s an emotional competition between parents, parents become
the immature ones."
Coaches, players and parents are required to sign a code of conduct at the beginning of each season for city-run recreation
sports, Hovarter said, and the city recreation department also offers a sportsmanship and training program for parents
and coaches. Even then, there are occasions every year when parents behave poorly. Parents have been asked not
to attend some recreational events, Hovarter said, and coaches are held responsible for the behavior of parents and participants.
"We address it head-on," he said. "It creates a confrontation, but we address it head-on."
GUIDELINES FOR HONORING THE GAME
The key to preventing adult misbehavior in youth sports is a youth sports culture in which all involved "honor the game."
Honoring the game gets to the root of the matter and involves respect for the rules, opponents, officials, teammates and
oneself. You don’t bend the rules to win. You understand that a worthy opponent is a gift that forces you to play to your
highest potential. You show respect for officials even when you disagree. You refuse to do anything that embarrasses
your team. You live up to your own standards even if others don’t.
Here are ways that parents can create a positive youth sports culture so that children will have fun and learn positive
Before the game:
Make a commitment to honor the game in action and language no matter what others may do.
Tell your child before each game that you are proud of him or her regardless of how well he or she plays.
During the game:
Fill your child’s "emotional tank" through praise and positive recognition.
Don’t give instructions to your child during the game. Let the coach correct player mistakes.
Cheer good plays by both teams. (This is advanced behavior.)
Mention good calls by the official to other parents.
If an official makes a "bad" call against your team, honor the game and be silent.
If another parent on your team yells at an official, gently remind him or her to honor the game.
Don’t do anything in the heat of the moment that you will regret after the game. Ask yourself, "Will this embarrass my
child or the team?" Remember to have fun. Enjoy the game.
After the game:
Thank the officials for doing a difficult job for little or no pay. Thank the coaches for their commitment and effort. Don’t give advice. Instead ask your child what he or she thought about the game and then listen. Listening fills emotional
tanks. Tell your child again that you are proud of him or her, whether the team won or lost.
Sports Parent Behavior Checklist
Rate on a 1-to-5 scale, 1 being "not like me," and 5 being "characteristic of me", the questions below relative to your parenting
of your child in sports. Think about how your child or your child’s coach would rate you. When finished, total the ratings
to assess how effective you are as a youth sports parent.
___ 1. Do I emphasize the development of my child and having fun more than winning?
___ 2. Do I have expectations that are realistic for my child as an athlete in a specific sport?
___ 3. Do I rarely criticize my child for his or her performance in a specific sport?
___ 4. Do I allow my to child to be responsible for his or her sports preparation (meaning I do not do everything for my child including
carrying bags, getting water, arranging practice time, preparing equipment)?
___ 5. Do I avoid trying to coach my child when he or she has a coach?
___ 6. Do I provide love and support regardless of the outcome of a game or match?
___ 7. Do I emphasize the importance of hard work with my child?
___ 8. Do I expose my child to different sports?
___ 9. Do I keep success in perspective?
___ 10. Do I display a positive and optimistic parenting style?
___ 11. Do I avoid allowing one specific sport to dominate my child’s entire life?
___ 12. Do I hold my child accountable for poor behaviors during practices and contests?
___ 13. Do I appropriately push my child when he or she is lazy and does not work hard?
___ 14. Do I encourage my child to seek out new challenges and opportunities?
___ 15. Do I avoid exerting pressure to win?
___ 16. Do I model an active lifestyle?
___ 17. Do I emphasize core values like ’if you are going to do it, do it right?’
___ 18. Do I provide transportation, as well as financial and logistical support?
___ 19. Do I provide considerable encouragement by recognizing what my child does right?
___ 20. Do I try to make athletics fun?
___ 21. Do I avoid focusing the majority of our conversations at home on a specific sport?
___ 22. Do I act calm and confident in my child as he or she plays the game?
___ 23. Do I avoid considering my child’s athletics as an investment and that I should receive something in return?
___ 24. Do I treat my child the same following wins and losses?
___ 25. Do I provide my child ample opportunity and resources to be successful in athletics?
___ 26. Do I allow my child some say in his or her sports-related decisions?
___ 27. Do I attempt to keep my own interests in sports secondary to my child’s?
___ 28. Do I avoid getting caught up in a sport and making it over-important?
___ 29. Do I consider my child my son or daughter first, and an athlete second?
___ 30. Do I avoid critiquing my child immediately following a match or game, or during the car ride home?
______ TOTAL SCORE
135-150: Great job mom/dad! You are parenting your child athlete very effectively. Keep doing what you’re doing.
120-134: You are very effective in parenting your child athlete. Find any items that you scored 3 or below and set a goal to improve.
105-119: At times, you are effectively parenting your child athlete, but there are some behaviors that may be negatively influencing your child’s experience. Review your ratings and then set a goal to improve scores below a 3.
90-104: There is a good chance you are negatively influencing your child’s athletic experience. Review your ratings and read available materials to help develop ideas for improving your child’s sporting experience.
89 and below: You are negatively influencing your child’s athletic experience. It is important you think about your child’s goals and why he or she plays athletics. Reflect on your perspective of youth sports and how it differs from a healthy perspective of developing the child and having fun in athletics. Please review sports parenting material and set a goal every week to improve as a sports parent.
Note: This checklist was adapted from a tennis parenting but really can apply to almost any youth sport today.