Parents: Yelling From The Sideline Doesn’t Benefit Anyone
One of the more surprising stats about youth sports is that 70 percent of young athletes in the United States will quit playing sports by the time they’re thirteen years old. It’s such a high percentage that you begin to ponder what could be causing such a mass exodus from youth sports.
When you really start to think about it though, it really isn’t as hard to figure out. There is more pressure now than there ever has been on young people who want to play sports in America. Hardcore coaching, intrinsic motivation and pressure, higher levels of competition between peers, and of course, the notorious hot-headed parents.
Recognizing Your Effect
Parents are one of the leading causes of stressors in their children’s sporting lives. Almost everyone has heard of the “Ride Home” problem, where the discussions parents have with their children on the way home from sporting events or practices are hostile and competitively charged.
However, while the “Ride Home” issue is serious and very real, there is also the growing problem of parents intervening on the sidelines of their child’s games– often times, not even waiting until the end of the game before voicing their strong opinions.
Everyone has seen the over-the-top parent at a sporting event.
They’re the ones screaming at the coaches, referees or both. Sometimes, their criticisms aren’t limited to adults, as they also yell at their own children (or in extreme cases, other people’s kids) to pick up their level of play.
Jean Boyd, the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Student Athlete Development at Arizona State University, says that a lot of the times, the problem with these kinds of parents is that they are trying to live their sporting dreams through their children.
Your Kids AREN’T You
“As someone who has a rich history playing youth sports, observing youth sports, and more recently coaching youth sports, with my thirteen year old who has been participating for the last three or four years. One thing that I’ve observed is that sometimes parents, coaches and adults we tend to vicariously relieve our history or the history we wish we had through our kids,” Boyd says.
In these kinds of situations, it is important for a parent to realize that the sporting career of their child should be the result of their own choices.
Improper behavior on the sidelines can have an adverse effect on your children. You may not realize it, but you’re setting a bad example of sportsmanship, and you may be driving your kid away from wanting to participate in sports all together. This can go for coaches and parents.
“A couple of years ago I was helping coach my son’s team in football and we were in a semi-final playoff game,” Boyd recalls. “The coaches for the other team thought it would be a good tactic to intimidate not only the players– but the coaches, myself included. A lot of loud talking, noise, and using language that was inappropriate, poking their chests out– you could tell that they wished they were playing, and that maybe they were incorporating some of the things that they have seen on television or elsewhere into their tactics coaching.”
“It’s not about them. It’s not about us. It’s about the young people having an incredible experience, learning lessons that will transition them into a powerful and productive life,” Boyd said. “Just a little history lesson, parents, it’s not cool when you try and live vicariously through your kid.”
It’s not just parents trying to live through their children though, there is also the parents who just believe they can coach or teach their child better than the coaches on their team. There are plenty of parents nationwide who believe they know what’s best, not only for their child, but the entire team– and they try to act that out as “coaches in the stands”.
Doc Rivers, head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers says that even he has stepped back to let the coaches of his children’s teams do the job they are there to do; “I have to tell all you parents, I do try to just be a parent. I rarely try to be a coach. I’m a parent, I’m a parent of my kids, who have coaches and I allow their coaches to coach,” he said.
Rivers, and other exceptional coaches and parents realize the pressure and stress that playing youth sports can cause. It’s important to keep that in mind, and avoid adding onto that pressure in large amounts.
“I have coached at every single level including middle school, all the way up to the NBA. In my experience, the players– kids included, are putting more pressure on themselves than they need to most of the time,” said Jesse Mermuys, an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers.
That is a concept that is tough for some parents to grasp. Young athletes are faced with so many extrinsic factors, that they internalize everything and place all the pressure on themselves. This kind of pressure builds and builds, and eventually they can crack.
“As a parent or as a coach, I would advise to try and limit the amount of pressure you are putting on that performing athlete, because they’re already putting that pressure on themselves,” Mermuys said.
“You know, everybody else is just beating up on your kids. You don’t need to do it as well. Let everybody else coach them, you be the support mechanism and you do all the building up. If they want to talk about something that they aren’t doing– then you can get in the conversation about it,” said Rivers.
In essence, it’s very important to be your young athlete’s biggest supporters, cheerleaders, etc. They will lean on your positivity and come to you when they want to have serious discussions about improving– so there is no need to press them.