As someone who’s been involved in youth sports for over three decades as a player, coach, official and spectator, I’ve witnessed a lot. The good, the bad and the ugly. I’ll leave some of the horror stories from my umpiring days for another blog or two, or maybe its own separate podcast who knows (there’s only a million of those now). I want to focus this blog post on parents involved in youth sports, whether coaching or just spectators.
Parents have a huge role in youth sports, and without them, many of these leagues would probably not even function (which I guess is probably obvious). Parents are also the cause of a lot of problems in these leagues, whether it’s screaming at the officials, yelling at the other team, or fighting with coaches of their own team, there are a laundry list of news stories showcasing Hall of Shame moments for parents.
This is why I decided to put together a Code of Conduct for parents that are going to be involved in their child’s sports journey. Following these guidelines will result in a more positive environment for the player and frankly, everyone else involved.
I haven’t decided on punishments for breaking this code so feel free to leave some suggestions in the comment section. I’m thinking death penalty or jail time is probably too extreme, but I’m open to hearing arguments. (Kidding on the death penalty people). Okay, let’s get into the code of conduct.
Rule #1: Youth Sports Must First and Foremost Foster an Environment of…FUN
I get it, everyone thinks their son or daughter is going to the pros. I thought I was going to the pros for a while too. Most kids are playing baseball or basketball or dare I say it, football at a young age because A their friends are playing or B they actually like the sport. Have you ever watched the joy in a child’s face when they hit a ball off of a tee for the first time, or they score a basket, it’s the same excitement I feel when The Outback Steakhouse forgets to charge me for my Bloomin’ Onion. When children first start playing organized sports, yes they do want to win, but more importantly they want to have fun. Some kids are more competitive by nature and that’s fine, but parents, remember, your sports career is over, it’s your son or daughter’s turn, so let them play and be as competitive as they want.
Rule #2: Absolutely No Yelling at the Umpire or Referee
I may be a little biased with this rule, but hear me out. If your son or daughter is a talented athlete, neither a referee nor an umpire is going to stop them from shining. Can they cost their team a game by making a bad call, or even a championship? Sure. Everyone reading this can remember an absolute awful call when they were playing sports. I’ve lost track of how many times an umpire screwed me over on balls and strikes when I was pitching. Or there was a time when a teammate stole second base, the umpire called him safe even though he was about 5 feet away from the base. None of those things prevented me from making All-Star teams or making the playoffs though. So the more you scream at the official whether you’re a coach or in the stands, the less it’s going to benefit your child. As a recovering umpire, the more a team argued with me, the less calls they’d get anyway. Also screaming at a ref when you aren’t getting your way isn’t really setting a good example. If you’re reading this paragraph and don’t like what I’m saying I’m sorry but it’s time to take a look in the mirror.
Rule #3: Winning is Important But Make Sure It’s Done The Right Way
Don’t worry, I’m not here to say every game should end in a tie and everyone should get a participation trophy. Teaching your child how to deal with winning and losing is important. It’s very easy to be on a winning team where everyone is laughing and having fun. Being on the losing side definitely hurts, but it helps your child grow believe it or not. When I was younger, my grandma would let me win every single game of Candyland we played. She would put the Ice Queen card on top and I’d pick it and be on my way to winning the game in two minutes. Years later after building up a record of 1000-0, I actually lost and I didn’t deal with it too well. The morale of the story is, winning and losing are important in youth sports. When your child’s team wins, they should do it with class and sportsmanship and when they lose, they should learn what went wrong and how to fix it so they can win the next time.
Rule #4 Coach Your Kids The Right Way
This rule is last, but certainly not least. Whether you are a coach, or a parent watching from the sidelines, if your son or daughter wants to learn the game, teach them the right way. I get it, I’m sure you were a high school superstar, but sports have changed since 1985. The way you did things back then may not be the case now. If your child wants to learn and you’re the coach, you better be doing your best to make sure you’re teaching the right fundamentals. Whether it’s going to trainings or learning more online, it’s your job as a coach and parent to put your child in the best position to succeed.
So to sum it all up, make sure fun comes first, don’t yell at the officials, or anyone else for that matter, win with class, and coach your kid the right way. It may seem like simple rules, but you’d be surprised at how many parents fail to follow them. It’s your job as a parent to nurture your child in the sports world, and not make them feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders when they’re stepping up to the plate in the 6th inning.
If you really have trouble taking something away from this, remember one this, don’t yell at your child, don’t yell at the coaches, don’t yell at other parents and don’t yell at the official. Act like a civil human.