Mom and dad, please stay at home

March 1, 2010

by Jenni Sebora

We hear about it on the news as often as the seasons change – the sports seasons, that is. Some parent gets arrested for threatening a coach, referee or umpire, or another parent.

Sometimes it’s not just a threat, as evidenced by the reported attack by on the commissioner of a 6th grade basketball tournament in Burnsville earlier this month. The commissioner tried to break up a fight between parents upset with the timekeeper at a game, and suffered a concussion, dislocated jaw, and dental damage.

It has gotten to the point where the PA announcers at high school events now announce the Minnesota State High School League’s list of “behavior expectations” before contests. I recently attended a youth hockey tournament where the announcer had to read the tournament’s “zero tolerance” policy before each game, which described behavior that would lead to immediate expulsion from the tournament of the offender (e.g. parents) and police involvement.

The obvious question is: how did we get to this point? Psychologists, I am sure, have done studies about how parents want to re-live their youth through their kids, or how parents have become so invested in their kids emotionally and financially that they stop at nothing to have their child succeed.

Like all adult behavior, lack of sportsmanship is modeled by kids. They learn that insults, taunting, profanity and disrespect for authority are okay. It must be – mom and dad are doing it. But the opposite is as true. If we show respect and can give praise, our kids learn that, too.

Along the way I picked up this set of rules:

1.) Parents should be seen but not heard – children appreciate that you attend their events, but feel increased pressure and are frankly embarrassed by a parent that criticizes them. Remember, the event is about your child – not you.

2.) If you must say something, it should be positive and about the whole team, such as “way to go (team name).”

3.) If you cannot keep quiet, at least stand somewhere by yourself so that people can see who is making a fool of themselves, and well-behaved people in the crowd are not associated with you.

4.) Coaching is the coach’s job, not yours. If you were the coach, some parent would be yelling at you by now.

5.) Referees are not to be abused in any way. Without the refs, the game is just a scrimmage.

6.) It’s okay to applaud a nice play by an opposing player. It teaches sportsmanship by recognizing that one’s opponents can be talented, as well.

7.) Understand that you are a role model for kids. Your son or daughter is watching you on how to behave. Don’t be surprised if your child begins acting the way you do.

8.) If a coach or ref tells you to calm down, please take that caution seriously. If you don’t calm down, you don’t deserve a second chance and should be banned from the game. Why should you ruin it for the kids?

9.) Give your kids a smile. If you are having a good time at your child’s game, chances are that your child will be too.

(Institute For International Sports, Center For Sports Parenting, www.sportsparenting.com)

By keeping these things in mind, you and your child can have a good time at the game.