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Cheers and encouragement: How to be a better sports parent

May 20, 2019 02:14PM ● By Greg James

By Greg James | [email protected] 

Here’s something most kids will never say to their parents: Thanks for screaming at the referee and the other team the entire game. 

All parents want to help and support their kids while they play sports. Most are able to do so without hindering others’ enjoyment or putting unnecessary stress on coaches or players. However, a refresher on spectator etiquette is always a good thing. 

“Parents that support their athlete, regardless of their role on the team make, the best parents to work with,”  former Copper Hills boys basketball coach Andrew Blanchard said. “It helps when parents find a role in the program that supports and are genuinely happy without expecting something in return.”

Here are three ideas from to help you to become a better sports parent. 

Support the coach

Some parents believe that their child's performance within the youth program is a reflection of their own parenting skills and self-worth. They feel that constant instruction from the sideline will help their child get it right. In a study by, children who are over-parented shows they are more likely to develop anxiety, have low self-esteem and believe they have no control over their success. 

“I feel boundaries are important, but the coach needs to have a relationship with the parents so that they know he cares about the overall mental and physical health of the athlete,” Blanchard said. “I think parents asking about playing time or other athletes should be avoided by all accounts. Playing time is a coach’s decision and should not be brought up in conversations or meetings.”

Let your children learn as well as fail. Remember to let kids have fun and encourage pick up games with no parents, coaches or stat keepers.

Encourage children

A player waiting to hear what base he needs to throw the ball to may never learn to make decisions. It is good to let players act with an objective.

In the book “The Narcissist You Know,” Dr. Joseph Burgo encourages competitive parents to talk to their kids, praise their efforts and be less critical of their mistakes.

Help kids set goals. They are like a road map of where they want to go both in and outside of sports. Break down the big goals into smaller, incremental goals. 

“Players must work while they wait,” Blanchard said. “Otherwise, they will not be ready or prepared when their chance to play comes.” 

Ryan Davis sits quietly as his son’s wrestling coach explains the best ways for him to become a better wrestler. (Greg James/City Journals)


Respect officials and the opposition

Bad calls happen. They happen in youth sports, high school sports, professional sports and even the Olympics. Of all the places the bad call matters the least, it is youth and high school sports. In most youth sports, the official is a volunteer; there is no instant replay or mega million dollar prize money on the line. 

Sportsmanship is generally talked about in a sport context, but as you step back it is generally good behavior and communication in any situation. Children model the behavior and communication styles they see. 

Teaching children to play by the rules, own their mistakes, say thank you, disagree respectfully and be a team player is important.

“At the beginning of the season, I have a meeting and encourage the parents to be positive with their athlete,” Blanchard said. “They should speak positively about their athlete and his teammates. I encourage them to avoid ‘table talk’ unless it is positive.”