Be a ‘Good Sport’ Parent

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Tyler, left, and Chase, Derek James’ sons, enjoying a moment of brotherly camaraderie on the sports field.

A whole bunch of new kids’ sports leagues get going in the fall. For fans, it’s a fun time. It’s also the time for the return of college and pro sports. There’s a lot of excitement in the air. Autumn is the season for baseball and softball, soccer, flag football and cheerleading. It’s also time for the annual reminder to not be “that parent.” You know the one I’m talking about: The parent who goes overboard, or says or does something to annoy everyone around them at their young kids’ practices or games.

Don’t be that sports parent who constantly tells their kid what to do. “Choke up!” “Spread your feet apart!” “Get back into position!” “Go to the goal!” “Shoot!” What you are shouting to your kid may be the exact opposite of what their coach is telling them. Let their coach handle it.   

Even worse, don’t be that sports parent who constantly tells other people’s kids what to do. I’ve been at tee-ball games where the batter has four or five other parents (not coaches) all shouting out advice at the same time. The kids are either going to tune it all out or they’re going to get confused by all the conflicting commands. Frankly, it’s exhausting for everyone else to listen to it, too.

Don’t be that sports parent who argues with the coach/referee/umpire. Sure, I’ve thought my kid was too low in the batting order or wondered why a ref was allowing pushing during their soccer game, but 99.9 percent of the time, there is no reason to intervene. Bad calls happen in the pros too, so you can’t expect a few not to happen in youth sports.

Coaches and refs give up a lot of their free time for the love of the games and to share that love with your kids. You “didn’t have the time” to coach, so you can’t expect to have the run of the show come game day. Give them a break.

Don’t be that sports parent who spends more time looking at their phone than at the game. While I’ve been known to check my work email while at a game, I try to do it before the game starts or during breaks in the action. Your kid’s game is not the time to satisfy your Candy Crush habit or play HQ Trivia in an attempt to win $8. The face your kids want to see when they make a play, get on base or score is yours. You know you’ll feel guilty if they ask, “Did you see that pass I caught?” and you blatantly lie and say, “Yes, it was fantastic.”

Don’t be that sports parent who talks poorly about the other team or its players. I’ve heard, “This is an easy out,” or “Coach, move everyone in,” when a kid got up to bat, or “their goalie is awful.” I’ve even seen aggressive parents try to intimidate kids with their words. Be more mature than your kid. Show that sportsmanship applies to everyone.

I’m not saying you have to be mute during your kids’ games, but offer support and encouragement. We all have a tendency to get caught up in the moment, but we need to realize that this is youth sports, not “you” sports. And while it would be nice to think so, the odds are that these kids — yours and mine — stand a better chance of becoming an accountant than a professional athlete with a multimillion dollar contract. Besides, that might very well be your dream, not your son’s or daughter’s. 

Remember at their age, it’s still about play. The only scouts in the stands are a few random Boy and Girl Scouts.  

Don’t be that parent. Be a role model. Be their hero. Love your kid. Love the games, and love watching their growth. Yes, it really is that simple.

Derek James is a host of WCCB News Rising. He and his wife live in Charlotte with their two sons who are age 9 and 7.