The Responsibility of the Parent in Youth Sports

A recent online poll conducted by Sports Illustrated for Kids magazine found that 64 percent of young athletes said they would rather play on a losing team for a coach whom they liked than to play for a winning team with a coach who they didn’t like. Most parents would never guess this about their kids. In fact, many would say, “Oh, he or she is just saying that – they don’t mean it.”

The truth is there are a number of things that parents do not realize when it comes to being a youth sports mom or dad. I highly recommend that youth sports coaches develop a code of conduct/ethics for your parents to sign prior to the season. Over-communicate your expectations and hold each parent or guardian accountable for their actions all season long.

Let me offer a few do’s and don’ts for your parents. First of all, a parent should not yell instruction, advice, or coaching tips to their child during the game. This will distract the child from the game or coach’s instruction, and honestly it is just embarrassing. Secondly, parents should be careful to avoid speaking negatively of another player on your team to anyone in the stands. You never know when the parents of the child you are talking about are within hearing distance and besides it it just plain tacky. In addition, they should never question your coaching strategies or decision-making in public. They should support you as coach and if you have a question or concern address it with you in private. Finally, a parent should never verbally abuse an umpire, referee, or other league volunteers or staff. Now for the do’s. Always be willing to cheer for a good play, no matter which team makes it. Always accept a win with humility and always accept a defeat with respect and sportsmanship.

When youth sports are done right the parents and young people follow the lead of a quality coach. That is why it is important at any level to have a parent meeting prior to the season to communicate your coaching philosophy, priorities, and most importantly your expectations for the parents. Be a leader that others are willing to follow. Focus on skills and character and remind the parents that character building is not solely your responsibility. Emphasize that you consider it a privilege to join them in helping their son or daughter develop skills essential to the sport and character lessons essential to life.


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