Have you ever sat in the stands of a youth sporting event and wondered why so many parents are spending their time screaming instructions at their kids? If you have, you are not alone. Many spectators have witnessed “that parent” or better yet, they have been “that parent.” Parenting and sideline coaching almost go hand-in-hand in today’s sports forum. What was once a place for parents and spectators alike to enjoy on weekends has become more like watching an NFL game between heated rivals.

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Many of these parents are former athletes that never played beyond high school or one that didn’t have much in the way of athleticism. “Sideline coaching” or what the baseball industry calls “fence coaching,” has become such a distraction to the players that I’ve seen kids stop right in the middle of a game and yell for their parents to stop coaching them. Not only does this take away from the game itself but also interferes with the coach’s instructions and overall plan for the game.

Let me take a moment to paint a picture… Imagine sitting at your desk in the office and every few minutes someone walks over and begins yelling instructions at you on how to properly respond to a telephone call or respond to an email. Yes, simple action items which are very familiar to you. You might think to yourself, “I already know how to do this – why are you trying to interfere?” You might also feel it is hard to concentrate with the constant distraction. This is similar to what the young athlete feels. He or she has spent the entire week training, practicing and becoming confident with what the coach is expecting, only to become distracted and embarrassed by his or her parent(s).

parents 4As mentioned in a previous blog, parental criticism and pressure is a leading cause of why young athletes quit sports. It is natural for a parent to want their child to succeed, but in today’s society it is becoming more of a requirement rather than an accomplishment. Parents trying to encourage their child are doing so in a manner that the child is instead feeling inadequate. Although this occurs in academics and other activities, it is most obvious in sports. When a parent attempts to coach from the sidelines, children are not only embarrassed, but they also interpret the “extra” coaching to indicate that they are in need of more instruction than the coach provides. It undermines the coach’s role to the player and creates confusion, resistance or negativity.

If you are a sports parent, take a moment to think about your behavior during games. Are you “that parent”? Think of what you can do differently both prior to your athlete’s sporting event and during the game. Let the coach prepare the players, understand that you may not always agree with or be aware of the coach’s game plan, and have faith that your child will do the best that he or she can. Encourage your athlete with cheers and recognizing good efforts on the field, whether the team wins or loses.