Sign in play areas in Buffalo Grove, Illinois

These are games, played by children

Are you that parent?

There’s at least one at every game, that parent who acts like their four-year old’s soccer game is the World Cup Final, that parent who prowls up and down the sidelines, yelling at the top of their lungs. And parents aren’t the only ones guilty of acting this way. Coaches too – often parents of kids on the team – can get carried away.

Of course we get excited about our kids playing sports. We want to be good parents, we want to be supportive. And team sports encourage competition so it can be hard not to get caught up in worrying about how our kids play. And whether or not they win.

Now, most dads aren’t going to go around tackling their daughter’s softball coach. Just like most Little League parents aren’t going to beat up an umpire. But negative comments and criticisms are also displays of poor sportsmanship and, as more and more families become active, these displays are becoming more and more common.

The Huffington Post recently shared news about a campaign in Buffalo Grove, Illinois to moderate this kind of behaviour. There, the Park District has put up signs titled: “Things for coaches, parents and spectators to keep in mind while children are playing sports on our fields.”

These “things” include: “This is a game being played by children“, and “Imagine how you would feel if you saw a parent or coach from the opposing team cheering for your child when they made a great play. Then envision what kind of person you would think they are for doing that. You can be that person.”

The goal of these signs is to put the focus back on kids playing by pointing out parent behaviours that get in the way of kids having fun.

And other communities and sports leagues are launching similar efforts by doing things like having the parents recite a pledge to behave before a game starts, by having “silent” games – where parents and coaches can only make sounds of encouragement but can’t direct players or say (or shout) anything negative, and by giving umpires and referees the power to ask parents or coaches to leave the playing field.

Malcolm Brown, a soccer coach from Westchester County, N.Y., says the “silent” games have let him see the negative effect sideline coaching has on kids. “Too often during games, they’re looking to the side for direction. They become robots. They can never become good in soccer because soccer demands the imagination and creativity of the player.” Silent games will help his kids be better players.

Greg Dale, sports psychologist and author of The Fulfilling Ride: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Athletes Have a Successful Sporting Experience says that while these “campaigns” for change are helpful, it’s more important for parents to be good sports. “As parents, we have to model the lessons we want our kids to learn.”

To let a fellow parent know about his “over the top” behaviour, one woman filmed him at several games and then sent the clips to him anonymously. After this, he calmed down.

How would you approach a negative parent?

2 responses to “These are games, played by children

  1. My son is four and is new to the wonderful world of hockey. He had his first “game” last week and there were parents there yelling at their child to get up and skate harder. My husband and I have 3 rules for all activities: 1. Be respectful of your coach, teammates and other skaters. 2. Try your very best. And most importantly 3. HAVE FUN!

  2. It’s sad that many parents get so caught up in wanting their children to be perfect and excel in everything, that they take all of the fun out of being a child. These friendly reminders, to adults attending children’s sporting events, are a step in the right direction. We believe in the value of playing for fun because children can learn many lessons and acquire new skills while enjoying themselves.

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