Recently, while watching my 10-year-old’s softball game, I found myself in a situation that I think most parents can relate to. The team’s were evenly matched and it was a high scoring, high action game. My daughter was playing catcher, and after an inning when she had let a couple runs in by throwing the ball to the wrong place, she came off the field almost in tears. I went to cheer her up, and she told me that she could hear all the parents in the stands yelling at her, including me, and it made her feel bad. My usual response would have been “Suck it up-there’s no crying in softball”, but to be fair the parents were getting a little rowdy so I told her sorry and to shrug it off.
It got me thinking about the impact that we as parents have on our children while they are playing sports. I think what is so often forgotten is that the children feel like they are on a stage, like performers. They are acutely aware of what is going on in the stands, and they know when they have messed up. I have watched enough games to realize that the parents have a huge impact on the game. If the parents are being supportive in the stands, the children have a better chance of keeping their spirits up and performing better. But when the parents get too loud and critical, I have seen the morale of the team plummet–usually leading to defeat.
I have put together a list of five things that parents in the stands should NEVER do:
1) DO NOT YELL AT THE OFFICIAL!–Not only does this send a horrible example to the children about sportsmanship and respecting authority, it also makes the official mad, which could spell trouble for your team. As a former umpire myself, let me tell you it is hard to always see every play from the correct angle. They know when they make a bad call, but when they get it rubbed in their face it only agitates them, causing them to mess up even more. This holds especially true if your organization employs teenage officials. Remember, this is a learning experience for them.
2) DO NOT YELL AT YOUR CHILD!–Seriously, it doesn’t help at all. You are not the coach, and even if you are, youth sports are designed for children to have fun and learn the game. They are going to make mistakes. But yelling at them only embarrasses them, and yourself as well.
3) DO NOT YELL AT SOMEONE ELSE’S CHILD!–I’m pretty sure that no sane parent would completely lose it on another child at a park or a birthday party. Yet the same child can be playing first base and all of a sudden it is fair game to rip their heads off for dropping the ball. Not cool parents. I don’t know what it is about sports that gets our blood boiling, but we all need to remember that we want the children to have fun and learn good sportsmanship. We should be modeling that same sportsmanship from the sidelines.
4) DO NOT YELL AT THE COACH OR GIVE THEM ADVICE DURING THE GAME!–Coaches and managers of youth sports are volunteers. They take time out of their busy schedules to be on the field with your child for many hours a week. They do not get paid. If you think that you can do a better job, then please volunteer next season. But until then, keep your two-cents to yourself.
5) DO NOT GOSSIP ABOUT ANOTHER CHILD IN THE STANDS!–Parents get vicious!! It is time to retract the claws and support all the children on the team. Maybe your child is the best shortstop and the child playing there now has no athletic talent whatsoever. Guess what? There was a time when your child was just beginning also. You should be glad that they were able to get the experience, instead of the coach only letting the best players in, or else your child would still be missing all the plays. Also, it doesn’t matter how quiet you think you are being. We parents have an uncanny knack to hear everything about our child, and yes we can hear you questioning why they are playing that position. How would you like it if someone else went around bad-mouthing your kid?
At the end of the day, remember that these children want to have a good time and make their parents proud. We should also make them proud by behaving ourselves, and not acting like raving lunatics.
Note: I originally published this article back in 2011 on HubPages. My oldest daughter was playing softball on an all-star team and the parents were out of control! She no longer plays softball-this had a big impact on her decision to stop. (And the fact that she has become more involved in our church’s youth group and doesn’t want to miss out on that.) I truly think that good parents lose sight of what really matters, and with baseball season starting up I think this is a good reminder to everyone.
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