Sometimes you just have to ignore the ridiculous behavior in youth sports. Going on a crusade to stomp out all that’s bad in the youth sports culture is a daunting task. You will do more by being a positive voice for what’s being done right and how to do it right, instead of constantly harping on what’s wrong. However, there are some behaviors that that cannot and should not be ignored. If you see any of these behaviors, do not turn a blind eye. It’s time to speak up.
1. Abusive or bullying behavior by anyone, kids or coaches or parents.
This includes berating, cussing, as well as outright bullying. Please don’t confuse a tough coach--a.k.a. “old school”--with a bullying coach. A coach can be strict and demand a lot from his players, without being a bully. In my opinion, there’s no place for cussing when coaching young children. And quite honestly, it doesn’t make the coach a better instructor in high school or college either. My son had a high school basketball coach that cussed up a storm in the locker room at halftime, where no parents or administrators heard him. No, I didn’t turn him in because my son asked me not to, but I couldn’t turn a blind eye either. I instead used it as an opportunity to talk to my son about the pointlessness of verbal vomit.
2. Your kid basing his self esteem on his performance.
Kids struggle with self esteem in sports all the time. Mainly because sports is such an up and down experience and if your child bases his worth as a person on how well he performs, his self esteem will be up and down too. Don’t stand by and watch your kid beat himself up because he didn’t do well. Listen for language that tells you if he is dangerously defining himself by his competitive achievements, and be the voice that stops the downslide.
3. Your child forcing himself to play just to please a parent or coach.
When your son or daughter first started to play, it may have been purely because Mom or Dad thought it was a good idea. But if your child continues to play merely to make someone else happy, not because he loves the game, it’s time for you to release him to try something he really enjoys.
4. Neglecting safety precautions.
There is absolutely no excuse for coaches playing around with the safety of athletes. If you see any infraction of safety guidelines or even coaches ignoring plain common sense, speak up before someone gets hurt.
5. Immoral or bad examples by coaches or leaders.
My husband once had an assistant coach who was fired because he was sexting a player on the team. But I’m not just talking about sexual scandal when I say immoral. I’m talking about setting an example that it’s okay to lie and cheat to win, or it’s okay to ignore the rules for the sake of convenience. When a coach chooses to put on that hat, he is accepting the responsibility of leadership, a job that includes managing a team and exemplifying good character. Looking the other way when you see one of these five bad behaviors may be the easy way out. After all, you have other things to worry about. But it is also the coward’s way out. Your children need you to keep your eyes and ears open in youth sports.