Dos and Don’ts for Spring Sports Season Etiquette

Written by: Jennifer Flippo, Child Health Strategies, LLC

It’s spring sports season, which means it’s time to sign the kids up for a team and mom and dad for Uber service.  After warming the pine (or the aluminum) myself for a number of years as a spectator with children in a variety of sporting events, I have compiled a list of dos and don’ts for parents.  Take a moment to consider them if you will, as it may add value to yours and your child’s season this year. 


First, and foremost, support the coach. He or she is the kind soul who got themselves signed up to be in charge of your kid the whole season, so let him know you appreciate his or her volunteer time.


Don’t badmouth the coach or the coach’s decisions in front of your kid.  This is toxic to the coach/player relationship.  My husband and I learned this the hard way when our son fed off of our frustration and dissatisfaction with a baseball coach.  It wrecked the season for him.  Support their decisions to play or not play your kid or your friend’s kid.  All seasons come to and end eventually. 


If you have a question/problem with plan/lineup/travel schedule, don’t talk to the coach right before or after practice. He’s trying to organize the practice and doesn’t have time to discuss playing time of your particular child. Ask him or her when a convenient time would be to chat.  Do NOT email sensitive issues. Be a grown up and talk it out personally. No texting complaints.


Get your kid to practice and games on time. These travel teams that charge you for practices and games will fine you or not let your kid play if you’re late or absent. Recreational leagues just have to suffer along with the kid who doesn’t show up until the bottom of the second inning. They give you a schedule; get there on time.


Pick your kid up when practice or games are over. I mean it. The coach has better things to do than watch the sunset with your kid because your hair appointment ran late.  Trying to coax mom’s cell phone number out of a six-year-old when no one is there to pick him up from t-ball is very painful.  Take care of your business.


No screaming instructions at your kid from the sidelines.  If you know so much about what your kid should do (or any other player involved), then suit up and coach. Otherwise put a lid on it. Remind grandma and grandpa of this edict as well.  Besides, your future star can only hear advice from one set of lungs, and those should belong to the coach.


Tell your kids you’re proud they did their best.  And that’s it.  Hey, if they had a bad game and helped the other team score the winning goal, we all make mistakes.  Let them ruminate if they need to and move on. Heaping on false praise isn’t necessary, and they’ll see right through it.  Junior doesn’t need to think he’s the star even if he only watched the fly balls fly past him in right field.


Offer to make phone calls, work the concession stand, sell candy bars, whatever the coach/team mom needs.  It’s no fun trying to beg the few parents around after practice to take care of this.  Give a few minutes of your time. Your kids will notice and thank you for it in twenty or so years.


Get your kid in the habit of saying,” thanks, Coach” after the games.  Getting destroyed 55-6 in a basketball game hurts a little less if the coach hears thank you from the sweet face of her sweaty power forward.  My hubby/co-parent felt a little less beaten down after his baseball team started the season at 0-4 when one of the younger kids on the team hugged his leg before a game and smiled up at him saying, “You’re a great coach, Coach!”  If that doesn’t make you enlist for another tour of duty, nothing will.

With respect to BEING the coach, well, I have learned a few things about that too. A youth coach can be someone your child remembers for her entire life. Good or bad.  Be the one she talks to her daughter about.  Be the one who always reminds them that we’ll get ‘em next time, or that we all were a part of this win. Be the one all the moms are talking about because all the kids love playing on your team. Even with your 0-8 record.


Resist putting your kid at the top of the batting order or as the running back if she isn’t really the best in that position.  Nobody wants to see blatant favoritism in a bunch of tee-ballers.


Don’t single the kids out for praise.  This may be contrary to what you’re thinking, but heaping it on for the kid who hit a triple or sunk three free throws can make the others feel as if you are minimizing their contributions.  And remember, the point is to encourage team sports.   We win as a team and lose as a team.


Have a written game plan for every practice and game.  My husband started doing this early in his youth coaching career. You don’t go to the grocery store without a list, do you?  Okay, well you shouldn’t.  It will help keep those bouncy third grade boys occupied and the girls from chatting and whining.  Plus, you have something to reflect on when you get home, and you can evaluate whether you met your goals.


Make some extra time every practice to work with weaker kids.  They need you more than the others do. This could be the first time they’ve ever kicked a ball, and they need to know the fundamentals.


No matter what is at stake, don’t yell or humiliate when they lose.  You aren’t motivated at work to do better when your boss screams and berates you, so why would you think twelve-year-olds would be?  If they’re not doing their best and they lose, they’ll get the message.  Yelling and belittling are never helpful.  Ever.  I wish I could climb the mountain and shout from the top of it about yelling at kids during sports events.  But it will take more than me to change this world.


Enjoy what you’re doing, because the kids see that too.  The kids will enjoy their season with you, and the parents will appreciate it.  These are the best times in parenting, and I hope that it will be for the players as well.

Best of luck wherever you are in your kid sports journey.  You meet some great lifelong friends, and your kids learn life lessons you can’t teach otherwise.  Happy Spring!

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