Confronting Crazy Sports Parents
Growing up a die-hard sports fan in Philadelphia, I have seen plenty of bad behavior from fans. Despite what is portrayed in the media about my home city, bad fan behavior is everywhere, even at little league games. Watching adults getting unruly at professional sporting events and berating grown men making millions is more tolerable. When our kids are the ones out on the field, the tension can be explosive and it’s intolerable. There is nothing more frustrating than crazy sports parents.
A friend of mine was watching his son have one of the best football games of his high school career. As a father, you can imagine the enjoyment my friend was experiencing seeing his son fly around the field. Suddenly a parent from the opposing team began taunting my friend’s son. What would you do in that situation? Confront the man? Ask a school official to talk to him? Sit silently annoyed? It’s tough to know. Ultimately, my friend stood up and told the man that he was talking about his son. Fortunately, the mocking stopped. It could have gotten much uglier. These incidents are growing. Why are parents like this and what should you do about it?
Why so crazy?
Fred Engh, the founder of The Alliance for Youth Sports, boils it down to three things.
1. Fear their kid won’t succeed.
This is the parent that is overly protective and tries to create an environment where his kid always wins. A deep fear, that failure and loss will crush the spirit of his child, drives him to lash out.
2. Feeding their own ego.
This parent is living vicariously through his child. Maybe he got cut from every team and is looking to compensate. Perhaps he was the star and craves the attention he once had. Sadly, he will cause his kids to hate sports and probably resent him.
3. Greed for the money.
He thinks his kid is the golden ticket to financial wealth. Whether it is getting a scholarship that pays for college or signing that illustrious professional contract, it’s greed plain and simple. Making money the master of the family is more than wrong; it’s dangerous. [Click to Tweet]
What to do?
Remember the example you are setting for all of the kids, not just your own.
1. Avoid confronting a crazy parent.
They’re already ugly, rude, and have lost perspective. Confronting them, more often than not, escalates their demeanor. Remove yourself, or even your entire family, from the situation depending on the extent of crazy. Seek out an official, parent ambassador, or police officer to confront the person. They have been trained on how to handle it. The offender is also less likely to continue when confronted by an authority figure.
2. Avoid being critical of kids — yours and others.
Kids have enough pressure and the entire point of sports is having fun. A majority of kids polled said they quit playing sports because it ceased to be fun due to parental pressure. It is one thing to use sports to teach the importance of teamwork, effort, and sportsmanship, but stay away from criticizing performance. Give them encouragement and ask them if they want your help before giving it.
3. Avoid being critical of the referees.
They are human beings and should be treated with dignity. They will make mistakes and may even show bias. It’s fine to question a call in a calm manner but berating, screaming, or using personal attacks is never appropriate.
4. Talk through issues with the coach in private.
Coaching is difficult and we are all in need of grace. If you have concerns with the coach, be sure your criticism is constructive, in private, and not in the heat of the moment.
5. Do cheer and encourage, but don’t be obnoxious.
Be supportive and positive about your kid and his/her team. Avoid overblown excitement and loudness — it can be embarrassing for your child. Obviously you don’t need to cheer for the other team, but never cheer against them. These are kids (even at the high school level) and cheering for a kid on the other team to fail strains the community. Be a builder, not a destroyer.
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Sound off: What's the worst behavior you have ever personally experienced at a kids sporting event?