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.


The Bill of Rights for Young Athletes
August 19, 2008, 3:43 pm
Filed under: children's sports, coaching, Coaching Youth Sports, parenting, youth sports

According to the Institute of Youth Sports at Michigan State, close to 75 percent of all kids who play organized sports stop playing sports entirely by the time they turn thirteen. In their fantastic book, How to Win at Sports Parenting, Jim and Janet Sundberg list the main reasons that young athletes give as their reasons for not continuing their sports journey. The list includes everything from loss of interest and too big of a time commitment to an experience with a bad coach or too much pressure from coach and family. The bottom line: It just was not fun anymore.

Youth Sports Parents are often guilty of living vicariously through their children or putting too much pressure on their children either from the bleachers or the sidelines. It is about time that young people had certain rights that guard their sports experience. What could keep a parent from deciding a child should specialize in one sport beginning in the 3rd grade? What rights should a young athlete have that parents and coaches need to consider as they seek to help their child to have a positive experience playing sports. That is why I am thankful that the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. They released the following statement that youth sports coaches and parents need to remember. They call it the Bill of Rights for Young Athletes. Check it out:

  • The right to participate in sports.
  • The right to participate at a level commensurate with each child’s developmental level.
  • The right to have qualified adult leadership.
  • The right to participate in safe and healthy environments.
  • The right of children to share in the leadership and decision-making of their sport participation.
  • The right to play as a child and not as an adult.
  • The right to proper preparation for participation in sports.
  • The right to an equal opportunity to strive for success.
  • The right to be treated with dignity.
  • The right to have fun in sports.
  • According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control, kids today are six times more likely to play a video game than engage in an outdoor activity/sport. This is not just an self esteem or emotional health issue – this is a physical health issue. Sports develop the mind, body, and soul. We cannot overlook the importance of youth sports in the lives of young people and we should not overlook the responsibility that parents and coaches have in this arena. If you are reading this blog post, accept the challenge to be a catalyst for change if you see any of these patterns in your child’s youth sports experience. It is all about the kids. It really is all about the kids.