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20 Things You Need to Know To Be A Good Sports Parent

By julieminer |

I never thought I would be a sports mom. Sports weren’t a big part of my experience growing up. But three kids later – here I am. Sitting on uncomfortable benches and watching my kids run around every weekend. It’s expensive, time consuming, exhausting, and totally worth it.  They learn so much from being part of a team; life lessons about winning, losing, practice, effort, and attitude. It’s been an amazing thing for our family, and I’m glad we’re doing it.

But organized sports can get pretty weird. The hyper-competitive environment surrounding many sports creates a social norm for parents, where winning and losing seem more important than good sportsmanship, learning, and having fun. Where parents sometimes lose their minds and behave in ways that leave us shaking our heads, or dialing 9-1-1. Just last month, a dad in Springfield, MA got so angry about his son’s basketball game that he attacked a coach and bit off part of his ear. The kids on the team were between 10-12 years old.

So I did some research and identified 20 things parents can do (or not do) to place the value back on fun, fitness, learning the fundamentals and being part of a cohesive, supportive team.

Many of these tips come from an excellent article by Steve Henson, drawing from the research of Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miller (of Proactive Coaching LLC). They’ve spoken with thousands of young athletes about their experiences and have made a career of speaking and writing about ways parents and coaches can do a better job keeping it fun.

I recently spoke with Bruce Brown who told me that the biggest trend in youth sports that he’s seen in his lifetime is that it’s gone from being peer-controlled to adult-controlled. “Historically, the kids were the ones picking the line-ups and calling the strikes. Now adults do that for them.” He also made the observation that since the vast majority of young athletes stop playing in middle school, “the coaches most of our kids are going to have, they’ll have before they’re 13 years old. And most of those coaches are volunteers – moms and dads. Not professionals or teachers. Their influence is so important.”

In order for us parents to keep the games fun for our kids, I’ve identified four areas to focus on and 20 things you need to know, based on my personal experience, research, and conversation with Brown:

  • Setting the stage for a good season
  • Things NOT to do
  • Things absolutely to do
  • Things you may not have thought about

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Tips on How to Be a Good Sports Parent

Why are you doing this?

Answering this question is a worthwhile exercise. Is your child registered for sports because it’s what you want or because it’s what they want (or some combination of the two)? Is this sport a good fit for your kid? Are they ready to play and learn? Are you guys there for the exercise? To make friends? To learn the basics? To win a championship?

Photo Credit: iStock

To learn more about Bruce Brown, Rob Miller, and Proactive Coaching, check them out at their website or on Facebook and Twitter.

Read more from Julie at her blog Rants from MommyLand. Follow Julie on Facebook and Twitter for additional goofy nonsense at no extra charge. You can catch up on her posts for Strollerderby, too – where she is often slightly less stupid.


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About julieminer



Julie W. Miner writes the blog Rants from Mommyland. She has three kids, a long-suffering husband, a very naughty dog and a geriatric, ill-tempered cat. In addition to blogging, she teaches at a college she couldn’t have gotten into because she made bad choices in high school. Read bio and latest posts → Read Julie's latest posts →

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10 thoughts on “20 Things You Need to Know To Be A Good Sports Parent

  1. Rachel says:

    As a former youth swimming coach, I think these are great. Especially the parts about letting the coaches be the coaches. A sports parent’s job is to be their kids’ biggest fan. You’re the only one who can give them that. Let the coach correct their mistakes.

  2. BlackOrchid says:

    This article is really great and I need to staple it to my forehead or something. I wish I could read it all at once rather than clicking through kind of dumb photos tho?

    I’m the Mom who does the post-game rundown in the car. I do try to be constructive, but you know? I could probably skip the whole deal (and should).

    Mea culpa and thanks for this!

  3. Linda, T.O.O. says:

    “Don’t discuss mistakes right after the game.” I’ll take this a step farther ans say “Don’t discuss mistakes at all.” That’s the coaches job and, IME, it just sets up a dynamic where kids feel ultra defensive. You’re not the coach. Back off.

  4. Linda, T.O.O. says:

    And ditto what @BlackOrchid said about the slideshow. I refuse to click through slides of common objects or scenarios. Slideshows are only appropriate if you’re showing the reader something that can’t be expressed in words.

  5. julieminer says:

    Black Orchid, I totally did the same thing about talking about the game on the ride home. OY VAY. I wish I could take it back.

  6. Katy says:

    Can we add ‘if they want to quit, let them’? I hate seeing miserable kids asked to hang on ‘just one more season’.

  7. Manjari says:

    I want to read all of these, but it’s taking too long to click through right now. My kids haven’t started doing sports yet, but I think it’s good advice to let the coach do the coaching. I think I naturally would have started telling them what to work on… but now I will try not to do that!

  8. Jenifer Lucas says:

    I have a question rather than a comment. . . .If your child gets halfway through the season and wants to quit, is it ok to tell them they have to finish the season b/c the rest of the team is depending on them? I have always been told to tell them to finish the season and if they dont want to play the following year that they dont have to. . . .just curious. . ..

  9. Linda, T.O.O. says:

    I make my kids finish what they’ve started.

  10. We have a 24 hour rule (that our son made a 48 hour rule). We cannot comment on a game for 24 hours after the game is over. The beauty of this is that after 24 hours no one remembers or cares. We are working on never needing to comment though.

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