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What to do When Parents are Poor Sports?

What to do When Parents are Poor Sports?

Heated debates with referees and trash-talking players is something one may expect when watching professional sports. But such behavior is not expected of parents on the sidelines of youth sporting events. However, unruly parents are on display with increasing frequency at various youth sporting events.

According to a 2017 survey by the National Association of Sports Officials, adult behavior is the reason more than 75 percent of all high school referees quit. About 80 percent of new officials stop after two years on the job. This has led to a shortage of officials across the youth sports landscape.

Richard Weissbourd, a psychologist and senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, says there may be several reasons behind the uptick in poor parental behavior at sporting events. The media and social media platforms have normalized demeaning and degrading people with whom one disagrees without fear of recourse, Weissbourd says. Also, the behavior could stem from parents wanting to compensate for shortcomings in their own youth sports histories. Others may be motivated by notions that winning is all that matters.

Children are the biggest losers when parents misbehave at youth sporting events. Rather than having fun in sports with teammates, youth experience unnecessary stress and anxiety about the game. Some are too anxious to compete in events for fear of losing. Others are being affected by pressure-induced statements thrown in, such as, “I know you are going to win today.” Some kids are embarrassed by their own mothers and fathers yelling at them to do better, or demeaning other players and coaches.

Youth sports leagues are starting to take inventory of unsavory parental behavior at kids’ sports events. While it’s one thing for parents to be invested in their children’s success, it’s another to allow it to lead to inappropriate or intense behavior that is far from sportsmanlike. Here’s how it may be possible to change patterns.

Share a new perspective. Oftentimes sports events, particularly at the high school level, are recorded and/or streamed for viewing later on. Problematic parents can be called in to view recaps of their behavior which may be caught on video to see that they may need to tone things down. This could be an embarrassing wake-up call.

Rally for changed policies. Youth sports leagues and schools can be petitioned to implement stricter policies for dealing with parents who are out of control at sporting events. Restriction from attending games could be one avenue, particularly for repeat offenders.

Model good behavior. Coaches and officials can remain calm and collected even in the face of aggression directed their way to illustrate to players how to behave. Furthermore, actions like congratulating the winning team and not supporting cheating or making illegal maneuvers during play should be reinforced.

Lend an ear. Sometimes parents act out at games not because of the game itself, but some other stressor that they may have going on in their lives. Mitigating the situation may come down to listening to a problem and providing a healthy outlet for that frustration.

Reducing incidents involving out-of-control parents at sporting events is becoming a larger priority as issues continue and fewer coaches and officials are inclined to volunteer their time.

Webb Weekly