You’ve heard of “those” parents — the ones who boo the other team or heckle the refs. Maybe you’ve seen them. Maybe you’ve been “that” parent before. But it’s not just the loud, obnoxious parents who can raise poor sports. Even subtle negative actions can teach your child negative behaviors on and off the field.
The Blame Game
It’s natural to assign blame. The ref blew a call. Your child messed up a play. Her teammate missed a shot. The coach didn’t play the right combination of players. But what does that teach your child? She learns she can pass off the blame on someone else when things don’t go her way. If she loses, it’s not her fault. The ref didn’t like her team and made bad calls. Or her coach didn’t play her enough and the other players didn’t come through. Avoid the blame game when talking about sports with your kids.
It’s easy to see what the players do “wrong” when you’re sitting on the sidelines. And it’s natural to shout out helpful hints from the sideline. But sideline coaching is damaging for a few reasons. First, you compete with the actual coach who may be trying to call out plays or advice he’s worked on with the kids in practice. The kids hear conflicting information and don’t know who to listen to.
Second, you undermine the coach’s authority. If you have an issue with the coach, the games are not the time to challenge his methods. Sportsmanship is about respecting each person’s role within the sport. Trying to take over the coach’s duties sends your child the message that he doesn’t need to listen to the coach.
Cheering on your child from the sidelines is perfectly fine and encouraged — as long as you stay positive. Avoid showing disappointment. If you can’t yell something positive to the team, it’s best to stay quiet.
Of course you want your child to succeed and be one of the best on the team, but comparing or telling your child he should be more like another player is damaging. Most young kids only hear, “That player is better than you.” Your child may feel less confident about his abilities or start constantly comparing himself to his teammates.
This type of thinking also puts more emphasis on winning and being the best than on just having fun and learning a new sport. Instead, focus on your child’s improvements. Point out when you notice he finally figured out how to do a certain play. Let him know when he did particularly well in a game.
Pee wee sports players need lots of positive examples of sportsmanship. By seeing their parents behave like good sports, they learn how to behave the same way on the field and off.