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Sideline Cheering at Your Child’s Game

If you have a child who plays sports, you have seen it. If you have gone to a youth sports game or a high school game, you have heard it. What am I talking about?

The parent who goes over the edge. Inevitably, it will happen at your daughter’s softball game, at your son’s soccer game or at a tennis match. It could be a dad who gets frustrated because his child strikes out with the bases loaded or it could be the mom who thinks her son isn’t trying enough. Believe it or not, the mom can often be worse than the dad because she is usually the one driving the car pools, washing uniforms and running to get water bottles and snacks when their kids have run out or forgotten them.

Unfortunately, sometimes it can go too far. In Oklahoma City, a high school soccer player was recently arrested for suspicion of murdering his father. His father was constantly berating him on the sidelines at his high school soccer games. Apparently, these degrading comments were not only restricted to his sports play, but also to his academics. The son admitted to murdering his father and stuffing him in a freezer. Obviously, this is not the norm, but this man’s comments had gone too far.

Cheering and booing at sporting events have gone on since the chariot races in Rome. Expressing yourself at a professional or college game is usually accepted. However, most stadiums have announcements before the game about unruly behavior or foul language being unacceptable and individuals who participate in these behaviors may possibly be escorted out of the stadium or arena.

But, what about at your child’s youth sports event? What are the rules there? Some leagues have rules that are enforced and some do little if anything about it.

Today, most youth sport leagues have sportsmanship waivers parents must sign when they enroll their child, but I feel most are not enforced. Usually, it is just a piece of paper most people just sign and don’t read. Most, just require one parent’s signature, so consequently, the other parent may not know anything about the sportsmanship policy at the games.

So what do you do when a parent on your team starts yelling at their child or maybe at yours? Do you say something? Do you sit on your hands and hope some common sense comes to this person: Do you go get something at the concession stand and sit somewhere else?

I believe the worst thing you can do is to confront the person who is screaming and yelling. Fred Engh, the President of the National Alliiance for Youth Sports (NAYS) and I have presented two teleseminars about youth sports and have discussed this topic at length. As Fred has stated, “violence begets violence”.

At the coach’s preseason meeting, parental behavior in the stands should be one of the most important topics discussed. Each team should have a procedure for handling parents who go over the edge at a game or at a practice. I believe it is the coach’s responsibility to have a policy that should state what is appropriate and what is not at games.

I feel if a parent becomes unruly at a game the team should have a policy that another parent notifies the coach during the game, if the coach hasn’t noticed this behavior himself/herself.

It is then up to the coach to speak with the parent and ask them to get under control or to leave the game for a few minutes and calm down. I also believe if this behavior is repeated, that parent should be banned from attending any more games or practices for the rest of the season.

This is a policy that should be made very clear at the preseason meeting and should be enforced throughout the season. The NAYS has found out that teams that back this up, usually don’t have problems with parents or kids during the season, and in the end, this makes the youth sports experience a pleasant one for fans and most importantly, for the kids who are playing the games.

What do you think? I would like to see your comments.


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