This article has been taken from the Winter 1999 Edition of Fast Break,
the official publication of YBOA Coaches and officials, Vol.6, Issue 2
Reprinted courtesy of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, November 16, 1998.
Copyright @ 1998, Time Inc. "Ten Commandments of Parental Behavior"
by Rick Wolff. All rights reserved.
Ten or 20 years ago, watching a youth game was fairly simple. Parents would bring the kids, hang around the field and chitchat with other Moms and Dads. Then, when the game ended, the kids would hop back into their parentsí cars, and off theyíd go for an ice cream cone.
These days, however, life at youth league games is no longer so pristine and pure.
And itís the parents, not the kids, who are the main reason so many problems and concerns are cropping up. Moms and Dads too often are losing perspective not only of whatís important at these games, but also of whatís appropriate sideline behavior. So, parents, hereís a quick reminder of how grown-ups should behave at kidsí games.
1. Talk about the other kids on the teamóindeed, on both teamsóin the same manner you would want other parents to talk about your child. This is the golden rule applied to sports. Watching kidsí sports tends to be a social affair. When youíre making conversation on the sideline with your friends and neighbors, think about what youíre saying before you actually say it. To always be on the safe side, only voice praise for the other children. That way, youíll never go wrong.
2. It's nice to give the coach a pat on the back when he or she wins. Itís even nicer when you give the coach a pat on the back after a loss. Remember that the vast majority of coaches are volunteers who are sacrificing their own time to help your kid. So give them a well-deserved salute, especially when their team hasnít fared well that day.
3. Donít hesitate to give the ref, umpire or official a pat on the back, either. As you might have guessed, refs and umps are people, too. And they like when parents and fans acknowledge their on-field efforts as well. Why donít you lead the way?
4. Remind your child that itís the effort that counts. We know all the kids want to win. Thatís a given. But we also know that for every winning team, thereís also a loser. Be prepared to cushion your childís disappointment after a loss by pointing out that he or she played hard and put forth a tremendous effort.
5. Avoid the P.G.A., the Postgame Analysis. When the game is over and your child climbs back into your car, avoid at all costs the detailed, excruciating postgame analysis of everything she did right and wrong. Just let her chill out, savor the fun of having played, and relax. The absolute worst time for "friendly criticism" is immediately after the game.
6. Smile. A lot. Kidsí sports are about having fun, and because kids take their behavioral cues from you, try at least to look like youíre enjoying yourself.
7. If you arenít a "good sport" at the games, the kids wonít be either. This should be self-evident. If you set a pattern of being a sideline loudmouth who likes to yell and scream at the ref, coach opposing team, donít be surprised when your kids start copying your behavior. You will have only yourself to blame.
8. Take the time to learn the rules of the game. A lot of kids these days are playing sports you may not be familiar with. So if you donít know the rules of the game, why donít you and your child learn them together? Besides, itís a good idea to read the rule book. It just might help win a dispute.
9. If you must make noise at the games, shout only praise and encouragement. If youíre a screamer and yeller, make certain that when you open your mouth, youíre only pouring forth cheerful encouragement for your childís team. Thereís never any place for derogatory, snide or sarcastic comments at kidsí games.
10. Above all, be there for your children. Support them, praise them, and let them know you can always be counted on for unconditional love, regardless of the final score.
Sports psychology expert Rick Wolff is the father of three children and the author of:
Good Sports, The Concerned Parentís Guide to Competitive Youth Sports (Sagamore,1-800-327-5557).