Are You a Crazy Sports Parent?

You'd never be flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Or would you?

crazy sports parents - angry-looking athletes in huddle
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We've all seen crazy sports parents—if not on the sidelines of our kids' games, at least on the news. None of us would admit to being one. But if you recognize yourself or your child in some of these statements, it's time to wonder if you are helping your athlete, or hurting him. Take a step back and think about these beliefs and behaviors. Could they describe you?

  • You're 100% convinced your kid will play professionally one day.
  • Your child often argues with his coach or with officials—and you back him up.
  • You think it's important that your child bring home a trophy for every success.
  • Your child doesn't seem to enjoy practice.
  • You can see that your child isn't putting forth a lot of effort at practice.
  • When games or competitions don't go your child's way, you spend hours analyzing what happened (and blaming others for messing things up).
  • You put in more coaching time than the actual coach.
  • You make the decisions about your child's sports activities, without your child's input.
  • You frequently argue with coaches, officials, and other parents about sports issues.
  • You expect your child to succeed at all costs. He should shake off injuries and do whatever it takes to win.

Do some of these sound familiar? If so, it's time to take a giant step back before your child gets injured, burned out, or so fed up with your behavior that your relationship is permanently damaged.

Instead, focus on really listening to your child's dreams, hopes, and fears when it comes to sports. Praise him for effort and for mastering skills, not for besting other competitors. The most encouraging sports parents stress good sportsmanship, promote participation by providing practical and financial support, and help their kids set realistic, achievable (but still motivating) goals.

They attend games and practices, but only provide positive feedback while they're there. They support the coach's decisions. They make sure kids attend practices and games regularly, not so they can gain an advantage over others, but to teach discipline and teamwork. In short, they practice positive parenting in all aspects of their kids' lives, including sports.

What to Do About Crazy Sports Parents

If you're not an extreme parent, but you're faced with them at your child's sporting events, I sympathize. It's not easy to deal with. Some sports leagues have resorted to silent games and practices—where no one is allowed to speak at all!—to shut down critical and overbearing comments. Others post reminders about acceptable behavior at sports facilities or hold regular meetings to make expectations clear. Speak to your child's coach, the league's director or a board member if you think a strategy like this might help or has become necessary.

If these measures aren't effective or the program can't take any action (sometimes you're dealing with an opponent's crazy parent), you're probably stuck with the bad behavior. You can use it as a teaching moment for your child. Ask her what she thinks of this adult's actions and how they affect that person's child and other kids too.

If nothing else, you are helping drive home a message about empathy and sportsmanship—one of the big lessons we hope kids learn from sports.

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