What to do when out-of-control parents are poor sports

Children are the biggest losers when parents misbehave at youth sporting events. (Metro Creative Services)

Heated debates with referees and blasphemous players are something to expect when watching professional sports. But such behavior is not expected from parents on the fringes of youth sports events. However, recalcitrant parents are becoming a more common sight at various youth sporting events.

According to a 2017 survey by the National Association of Sports Officials, adult behavior is the reason more than 75% of all high school umpires quit. About 80% of new civil servants retire after two years in office. This has led to a shortage of officials across the youth sports landscape.

Richard Weissbourd, a psychologist and associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, says there may be several reasons for the rise in bad parenting behavior at sporting events. The media and social media platforms have normalized demeaning and demeaning people with whom one disagrees without fear of recourse, says Weissbourd. The behavior could also be due to parents wanting to make up for deficiencies in their own youth sports history. Others may be motivated by the idea that winning is all that matters.

Children are the biggest losers when parents misbehave at youth sporting events. Instead of enjoying the sport with teammates, teens experience unnecessary stress and anxiety about the game. Some are too scared to compete for fear of losing. Others are influenced by pressured statements like “I know you’re going to win today.”

Some children are embarrassed when their own mothers and fathers yell at them to do better or humiliate other players and coaches. Youth sports leagues are beginning to inventory unsavory parental behavior at child sporting events. While it’s one thing for parents to invest in their children’s success, it’s quite another to allow it to lead to inappropriate or intense behavior that is anything but athletic.

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Here’s how it may be possible to change patterns.

Share a new perspective.

Sporting events, particularly at the high school level, are often recorded and/or streamed for later viewing. Problematic parents can be brought in to look at summaries of their behavior, which may be captured on video, to see that they may need to tone things down. This could be an embarrassing wake-up call.

Rally for policy change.

Youth sports leagues and schools may be asked to adopt stricter policies for dealing with parents who get out of control at sporting events. Restricting participation in games could be a possibility, especially for repeat offenders.

Exemplify good behavior.

Coaches and officials can also remain calm and composed in the face of aggression directed at them to show players how to behave. In addition, actions such as congratulating the winning team and refraining from cheating or illegal maneuvers during the game should be strengthened.

Lend an ear.

Sometimes parents play games not because of the game itself, but because of some other stressor they may have in their lives. Defusing the situation can amount to listening to a problem and providing a healthy outlet for that frustration. Reducing incidents of runaway parents at sporting events is becoming increasingly important as the problems continue and fewer coaches and officials tend to volunteer their time.

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