3 Tips for Parents Watching their Child’s Game

Have you ever been to one of your child’s games and observed parents who were rather annoying spectators? After 20 years of being a sports mom and 28 as a coach’s wife, I’ve learned a lot about how to behave as a spectator. I blew it a lot at the beginning—yelling things to the refs I shouldn’t have, and having a bad attitude towards coaches or cocky players—and sometimes I still have to fight the urge to behave badly. I’ve learned, however, that it’s best for my kids and for myself when I adhere to these spectator guidelines:

Parents should cheer, but they aren’t the cheerleaders  

When my kids were small, they loved to hear us cheer and yell for them. But when they got older—somewhere around middle school age, and definitely by high school—we realized it was time to show a little self-control. Let’s be honest, parents who scream and holler for every basket, strike, or tackle can be pretty annoying. I sometimes wonder if parents like that are just a little too wrapped up in their kids’ sports events.

Of course we cheer for our kids when they score or make a good play, but some parents go overboard and not only embarrass themselves, they embarrass their young athlete.

Parents in the stands are fans—be a spectator

Not a coach. My husband and I entrusted our children to the instruction of their coaches. Sure, we discussed strategies and ideas to help them become better players, but we did this at home, not from the bleachers during the game. Our athletes need to focus on the game and on what their coach is telling them to do; they do not need to hear parents yelling constant instructions from the stands.

Parents should be positive

I’m not just talking about yelling at the refs or cowardly spewing negative comments to the coaches either, I’m talking about what you say in your little parental groups that others can overhear. The moan you let slip when that not-so-talented player is put into the game or the loud chastisement you give a player for his or her mistake (not just your own child). When my oldest played freshman volleyball, she did not start. At 5-feet-4-inches, she was not the deadliest volleyball player on the court. During one game she was substituted in and one of the parents near me said quite loudly, “oh no, what are we doing?”

I had to restrain myself not to immediately go over there and give him a piece of my mind. After the game, however, I did confront him with these words: “Look, I know my daughter is not the best volleyball player out there, but she works hard to get on the court, so I would appreciate it if you would keep your negative comments to yourself.”

If you feel you must comment about players, keep the voice low. You never know who is listening. Being a good parent spectator will not only help you and those around you enjoy the game more, it will boost your child’s performance. When they know mom or dad is there to be a positive supporter, they can relax and play their best.


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