These identifiers of crazy sports parenting are not meant to mock, but help those who might have a tough time with self-appraisal. I’ve known great sports parents and terrible sports parents. I’ve displayed some of the traits below, so there is no judging here. All I want is for sports parents to evolve toward being a cause for kids to enjoy participating is sports rather than dread it.
Here is a very incomplete list of 10 traits that tend to identify a damaging sports parent:
10 – You buy gifts for the coach. Buying favors on behalf of your kid is cheap and tawdry. Saying “thank you” is plenty to show gratitude, and it is always appreciated.
9 – You don’t know the names of your child’s teammates. The best part of youth, high school, and college sports is the lifelong friendship forged during the sacrifices made to compete at a high level. Not having any idea who your child’s lifelong friends is a great sign you are way too focused upon the wrong things.
8 – You stand in the bleachers during the majority of the game. If you are always standing, you are too invested in each individual moment of the game. Relax. If you need help relaxing, distract yourself with game related tasks. I either videotaped games or kept a scorebook. The point wasn’t to capture the games or stats for posterity, but to distract myself from getting too wound up.
7 – You bring a lawn chair into a gym. There must be a reason you are uncomfortable sitting in the bleachers with others, or why would you go to the trouble to pack your own chair. I’m not sure when this weird practice began, but I see it more and more.
6 – Your child cries in the car as you breakdown his or her performance on the drive home. Dissecting your child performance is best done by a coach, who very likely knows more about the game than you do. You love – coaches instruct. Buy the kid ice cream and keep your thoughts about how to set a screen to yourself.
5 – Referees yell back at you. If you are so relentlessly “helpful” with officials that they shout back, you are sharing too much criticism. There will always be occasional whining about calls from fans and parents. Refs and umpires understand that. If you go beyond expected boundaries, refs may engage. If they do, sit down and be quiet.
4 – You wear a jersey or shirt with your child’s name or likeness on it. Worse, you may also have had your child’s national ranking printed on the shirt. Don’t laugh. I’ve seen it many times. Advertising who your son or daughter is does nothing to enhance the kid’s enjoyment. Focus on the kid – not your pride.
3 – You root for the failure of your son or daughter’s teammates. Hoping for a kid to miss a shot, strikeout, miss a tackle, or (God forbid) suffer an injury is horrifyingly common among parents. “(Insert kid’s name here) is only two ankle sprains away from starting” is a thought shared among parents far too often.
2 – You engage in any way with the coach about playing time. How much run your son or daughter earns on the court, field, diamond, pitch, or rink is not your business, and it is not your fight. It may pain you to watch your kid sit while others play, but it is just that adversity that fuels the work needed to improve so he or she can compete. If you have a team coached by a parent, and favoritism is clearly an issue – pull the kid from the team.
1 – You are sitting alone through no choice of your own. If you start the game sitting among other parents and end the game socially distanced from them, you are likely causing them discomfort through your behavior. It helps if parents sit in pairs and trust one another to keep each other out of the weird space that is embarrassing to all – including the kids.