baseball little league coach with player

Ask Sassy: How to be a good sports parent

In Kids by Guest Writer5 Comments

baseball little league coach with player

Dear Readers:

I’m stepping up on my soapbox for a moment. Nobody sent this question in, but it’s something that’s been on my mind for a while: The obnoxious sports parent. If your kids or your friends’ kids or your nephews/nieces/grandchildren are on a sports team (or even in a club, this might apply) and you ever watched from the sidelines either by choice or because your friend/sister/brother/adult child guilted you into coming with them, this one is for you.

How Not To Be an Obnoxious Sports Parent

Show up at practices. If you don’t know when the practices are, call or email the coach. How hard is it? If the coach is bad at communicating with parents because he is a MAN and is bad at that anyway, it’s not enough for you to shrug your shoulders and said “Whatever. I guess we’ll miss practice this week.” Your kid needs the practice. Even if she is a natural-born soccer star, she needs to be present with her teammates and learn how to work together with them.

If you want to do the coaching, you should have volunteered for the job yourself.

Call when your kid has to miss practices or games. In most community sports leagues, the coaches and assistant coaches are volunteers. That means the basketball coach for your son’s pee-wee team is giving up his or her time and patience to teach your child how to play basketball and how to improve. He or she may have had to leave work early, or get a babysitter, just to show up. So if you need to miss a practice, let him know – it’s a sign of respect. Also, your child is a part of team (have I mentioned that yet?) and if she is missing, the plays, the drills, the whole game plan might have to be adjusted. Alert your coach as soon as you know you’ll have to keep your child home sick or something else has come up.

Keep your heckling to yourself. Volunteer coaches might make some moves you do not support at all: play calls, personnel changes, bad choices on the field or court — but he’s the coach, not you. He is the one who stepped up and made it possible for your kid to play in the first place. It doesn’t help him at all to have you on the sidelines grousing about running a pass play instead of a running play when the team is down by three. Granted, he might actually need some help, especially if he doesn’t even know how to play the game — in that case, helpful suggestions given when you’re not pissed off after a loss, but feeling calm and actually helpful — might benefit him. But if you want to do the coaching, you could have volunteered for the job yourself.

Also, this should go without saying, but DON’T scream like a jerk or get in a fight with another parent, a coach, or an official. Bad example for your kids, and it just makes everyone uncomfortable. If you get fired up and pissed off, think of your happy place. The game will be over soon.

Bring extra snacks for siblings. Many kids’ sports teams ask parents to bring snacks after the games on a rotating basis to share the burden and cost. When it’s your turn, consider that your child’s teammates probably have sisters or brothers watching the game, and they might hover around the perimeter of the gaggle of kids diving for donuts, hoping there’s a scrap they can scavenge. Be generous and make that kid’s day with a snack for her, too.

Bring whatever snack you want, but don’t be preachy. Some parents get all holier-than-thou about bringing healthy snacks to sports games. I’ve heard them whine about pumping the kids up with sugar after they just had some great exercise. If this is you, bring a healthy, tasty snack when it’s your turn. But don’t send out an obnoxious email to all the team parents complaining about donuts or juice boxes and how they are the devil. The kids just worked hard — they’ll love a sweet or savory snack, especially if they lost. (But don’t bring soda. Soda is poison.)

Teach your child to behave appropriately. I mean, I shouldn’t even have to say this, but there are so many people who pet and coddle their children even in this situation that it makes me ragey. If your kid is the one on the field who mopes around, doesn’t listen to the coach, talks back, goofs around instead of standing in line during a drill, or even sits down in the middle of the field during a game — it’s not the coach’s responsibility to parent him. A good coach will reward kids who try hard and pay attention, and give others a chance, but not too many. A good parent will handle their misbehaving child or at least make it look like she’s dealing with it. But laughing it off or encouraging disrespect and bad behavior during sports is only setting this child up for bigger problems later.

Finally, relax. It’s Little League, not the Olympics. It’s a GAME, not life-saving brain surgery. The point is for your kids to have fun, get some exercise, socialize, and continue learning how to be human who interacts with other people. Look at it as a fun thing. If your kid misbehaves during basketball practice, it might be because she hates basketball. But that’s okay. She’ll find her thing, and you can help her do it.

Leaving soapbox, and inviting you onto yours: what’s one thing parents do at your kid’s sports games or practices that annoys the crap out of you? What would you do differently?

Send in your problem for Sassy to solve, whether it’s a parenting question, relationship dilemma, or a snafu with social etiquette and it may get answered in a future column. Sassy is here to help! Submit your question for Ask Sassy here! (Or just email me, darling. We can keep it between us. You can also follow me on Twitter where I share pro tips on life every week.

Meet the Author | Guest Writer

This post was written by someone who we think has some pretty savvy ideas! We love sharing creative, informative and fun things form guest contributors!

Share this Post


  1. That’s easy. When a parent constantly complains that their kid isn’t getting the time they “deserve” in training and that their kid should be moved up to the next level b/c the parent, not the coaches, the parent, thinks their kid is talented enough and ready to do so despite clear proof that the child is not prepared.

  2. Let’s see… So many things about sports parents bother me… First off, how about that everyone is a winner… Actually that is not true. There are clear winners and losers in sports games… To give everyone a trophy is not teaching anything to the kids about life. In life as we all know we have to work really hard to get the raises, the grades, the acknowledgement … That is how it is…It is a lesson for the kids to understand that even though they tried their best it may not have worked this time but in time their best will pay off…. And the kids that did win should feel good about themselves not that it doesn’t matter because no one keeps score…. Uhhhh… YES they do and everyone ESPECIALLY the kids know it!!!!!

  3. Nothing upsets me more than dads who loudly berate their sons — and sometime other people’s sons! — for making a mistake in the game. I’ve sat though countless games and have yet to see a kid actually play better because they were publicly humiliated due to an ‘oops’ moment. No need for coddling but shaming your kid to tears is deplorable and all too common.

  4. What I’d say, maybe under my breath, or maybe not: Seems to me that a lot of these are boundary issues–as in, your kid’s sports success or failure is theirs, not yours. So maybe you should back off–and join a sports team of your own.

  5. Will you get too invested in a 9 year old’s soccer game? Most definitely. Should you rip the coach/referee a new one because they made a mistake? Absolutely not. Being a coach or a youth sports official is a big time job and huge commitment. If you really think you can do it better by all means volunteer for next season!

Leave a Comment