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Parents and Youth Sports
Parents and Youth Sports

  • Parents in the way.  Sometimes parents get in the way of children who only want to have fun.  Many parents are trying to live their own dreams vicariously through their children.  Remember—your childhood is over!
  • Many parents see sports as a chance for a scholarship, fame, or becoming a professional, pushing them to spend 30 hours/week in practice and competition. They start some of their children at the age of 3; however, after high school, organized sports are over for most kids.  The odds are not in their favor to go professional, because injuries will occur when they are young which will prevent them from playing college and professional sports.  
  • Burnout comes for most kids—before their parents are ready to stop.  Parents who view their investment and dreams are often unwilling to listen to the child who is no longer interested in the sport
  • When parents scream and yell at the coaches and referees, it is not fun anymore.
  • Parents have a protective instinct, and when they see their child knocked down, or see a call made that goes against the child, or think the child isn’t getting enough playing time, or the child appears to not put forth enough effort…parents often lose control and go into a rage mentality.  This behavior of parents, who are out of control, feeling the pressure to win, is humiliating to their children.
Many parents and coaches have become verbally and physically abusive at children’s sports.   Parents want their children to achieve fame in sports, willing to try to make that happen even if the parent loses control.  Some parents yell at referees and coaches, embarrassing their own children. Coaches also use profanity, demean, yell at, and threaten children; and Some youth sports have become so violent, that parental anger and fan rage has even resulted in injury and death.

This is a national tragedy—which can and must be changed.  Parents and coaches in some areas of our country must be trained on how to deal with frustration, disappointment, and anger management.  Some parents are required to sign a Parents Code of Ethics before their children can play on a team.  
  • 75% of all children who play organized sports in this country will quit by the age of 13 or 14— if their parents will allow it.  
What Parents Can Do
  • Parents who coach their children’s sporting activities not only spend time with their children, but they also support the community.
  • Teach kids there is much more to life than sports and winning.  Help kids develop skills, fitness, leadership and social skills —to carry over into the rest of their lives.  
  • Encourage good behavior on and off the field, whether you are a coach or parent.  Compliment their talents and admirable behavior.  “How is this going to affect your athletic performance?”  “I’m glad you have a strong will—it’s going to help you stick to your principles in life.”  
  • Make a conscious effort to teach sportsmanship. (Parents who are oblivious to the appearance of their own behavior, should have someone else video tape them at a game.)   
  • Volunteer to help a Little League or other youth team.  Possible needs are providing transportation to and from practices and games; supply and manage uniforms and needed equipment; help with registration; oversee photos, trophies and tournaments.
  • Volunteer to help coach, raise funds for equipment, referee, umpire, or keep score for community sports, such as the YMCA, YWCA, or community centers.   
  • Volunteer to coach a youth sport with kids age 6-18.  Coaches are responsible for a wide range of experiences for youth.  Coaches teach sportsmanship; model ethical conduct; teach young people health fitness and life skills; talk about the dangers of drugs; teach that tobacco impairs lung capacity.  Praise kids for trying, not just winning.  Encourage players to perform their best; recognize them for a job well-done; help youth set personal goals that are realistic and attainable; teach concentration; teach how to relax under pressure; and help athletes separate their self-worth from their performance.   (Suggestions were adapted from:“Activities You Can Do with Kids:  Coaches Make Great Mentors”)   
  • Promote the use of wood instead of metal bats to increase safety among Little League baseball players. Many serious injuries have been sustained by young boys as a result of using metal bats which drive the ball faster and farther than wood bats.  Metal bats increase the danger of being struck and seriously injured by a batted ball.  The difference in age and body size among children ages 9 to 12 can make the smaller boys very vulnerable and defenseless when a larger boy completes delivery of a hit ball with an aluminum bat.  (New York City Council has banned the use of metal bats in competitive high school baseball games sponsored by both public and private schools.)    
  • Be a good sports parent.  “Intense pressure is causing young players to drop out of sports in record numbers…Adults are pushing children toward unrealistic goals…hoping they will become professional athletes who make millions…and when athletes use steroids, it just reinforces the win-at-any-cost mentality.
  • Learn from the Professor.  The following information came from a phone conversation with Dr. Vehrs, BYU professor, College of Human Health and Performance, Exercise Psychologist. He has also worked at the Wellness Center at a Children’s Hospital.  Dr. Vehrs has studied youth fitness, and stated the following:  
    • Parents need to stay out of youth sports (instead of displaying violent behavior toward children, coaches or officials at their children’s games).  
    • Parents, on average, contribute to their children’s competitiveness rather than sportsmanship.
    • Sports drive comes from the parents, not the kids.
  • “Sports Done Right” tips:
    • Encourage your child, regardless of his or her degree of success or level of skill.
    • Ensure a balance in your student athlete’s life, encouraging participation in multiple sports and activities while placing academics first.
    • Emphasize enjoyment, development of skills and team play as the cornerstones of your child’s early sports experiences while reserving serious competition for the varsity level.
    • Leave coaching to coaches and avoid placing too much pressure on your youngster about playing time and performance.
    • Be realistic about your child’s future in sports, recognizing that only a select few earn a college scholarship, compete in the Olympics, or sign a professional contract.
  • Be there when your child looks to the sidelines for a positive role model.      

For more information about the Sports Done Right initiative, log on to

“Who’s Killing Kids’ Sports?”, Parade Magazine, August 7, 2005

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