Watching your kid play sports can be brutal sometimes.
It’s OK to admit it. Maybe it’s freezing or sweltering. Maybe you’re sick. Maybe your kid has a bad game or – even worse – just doesn’t care. Or maybe you just have 700 other things to do.
Most likely, however, is that the source of your torment isn’t your son, your daughter, Mother Nature or your to-do list. It’s probably another parent.
Every youth sports parents has encountered That Parent, and if we’re being truthful with ourselves, has probably been That Parent at some point. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. We simply need more people, to borrow an expression, to be the change they want to see in the world. In short, the effort to eliminate That Parent from your life once and for all begins with you.
With that in mind, here are seven tips to help you avoid being That Parent.
Don’t Coach From The Stands
This is definitely not easy. As an occasional youth sports coach, I’ve been on both sides of this and understand both sides. As a coach, it drives you bananas to hear a parent screaming at his kid from the stands and drowning out your voice. As a parent, it is simply second nature to take every opportunity to help your kid succeed.
Here’s the thing, though: Even if you know more than the coach (and there’s a good chance that you don’t), you should resist the urge to bark orders at your kid during the game. You don’t sit in your kid’s classroom and bark orders at her over her teacher, do you? Of course not. So don’t do it at a ball game either. Your kids, their coaches and your fellow parents will appreciate it.
Don’t Talk Bad About Other Kids
This is how fights start in the bleachers. If your kid’s teammate lets in a goal, makes a bad pass, misses an easy shot or makes any of the other 7 million mistakes that kids make in soccer, keep your mouth shut or, better yet, say something positive instead.
“Good effort!” “Keep your head up!” “Get ’em next time!” Any of these statements encourage the kid — who probably feels worse than anyone about the mistake — to keep going. Plus, it can prevent any other parent from jumping in with negativity. Above all, however, it is your job to be The Grown-Up, and few things make you look less like a grown-up than talking trash about a 10-year-old. Be better.
Don’t Block Other Parents’ View
Yes, you’re excited. Yes, you’re cheering on your kid as she plays. But you’re not in a bubble. Be aware that other parents are nearby, and they came to watch their kids play, too, not to stare at your back for 60 minutes.
Now, I’m not saying that you can’t stand and cheer. Just be cognizant of those around you. For example, consider standing behind the row of folding chairs that line the sideline rather than in front of it
This condescending, know-it-all mansplainer can be found at many games, enlightening those beneath him.
“Oh, you didn’t know that you had to have both feet down on a throw-in? Well, I did and here are 10 reasons why. And while I’m at it, here are 17 other things that I know but you don’t.”
Countless parents sit on the sidelines and don’t fully understand what they’re watching. (That’s part of why we created SocceredUp.) However, most of them would prefer to keep it that way over being talked down to and lectured. If someone asks a question and you can answer it, be generous, be kind and be brief.
Volunteer To Help When You Can.
Take it from someone who has done it before: Your kid’s coach probably feels pretty overwhelmed. He or she is wrangling kids, talking to referees, managing parents and trying to help the team improve. What your kid’s coach needs from you as much as anything is the occasional “How can I help?”
Maybe you put up the goal net or line the field. Maybe you help warm up the goalie. Maybe you help a kid tie his shoe or find his shin guards. The list of to-dos can be huge and offering your help will be appreciated. Plus, you’re setting a good example — not just for other parents but for your kid, too.
Bringing coffee or donuts can work, too. I’m just sayin…
Forgive When There’s A Honest Mistake.
Every soccer parent knows The Sideline Shift. This happens when the parents of the kids whose game just ended pick up their chairs and blankets and move out of the way, to be replaced by parents of kids whose game is about to begin. The shift usually happens without incident, but not always. Two seasons ago, my wife and I placed our chairs along the newly vacated sideline only to be interrupted by another agitated parent.
“Oh, no, no, no. Please go ahead and take the spot,” he said, his voice dripping with condescension and sarcasm. “It’s not like we’ve been waiting for it for 20 minutes or anything.”
We were in the wrong, so we moved, but his tone made my blood boil. I was angry for the rest of the game and it all could’ve been avoided if the person had acted like a grown-up when confronting me. If the person had said, “Excuse me we’ve been waiting here for that spot. Would you mind finding another place to sit?” there would’ve been no hard feelings. After all, we didn’t intentionally steal their spot; we just weren’t paying attention to our surroundings. It was an honest mistake and should’ve been handled far differently.
Again, be a grown-up, set a good example and recognize that honest mistake sometimes happen.
When You Are “That Parent,” Apologize.
I was That Parent during The Sideline Shuffle. One day, you will be, too. You think you won’t, but you will.
You’ll stand along the sidelines and cheer while blocking everyone’s view. You’ll be upset about something in a game and say something you shouldn’t have. You’ll bark orders at a kid from the sidelines when you know you shouldn’t. Or maybe you’ll just spend the entire game or practice on a work call, speaking more loudly than you realize and annoying all of those around you.
When — not if, when — one of these things happens, recognize it. Then, take a deep breath and give a sincere, “Oh, gosh, I’m really sorry” to those around you. They’ll appreciate it, and maybe the next time they’re in your shoes, they’ll follow your example.
Ever been “That Parent”? Of course you have. Share your stories in the comments below.