New to sports parenting? Here’s what you need to know

By Frank Bartscheck | Posted 10/31/2016

After signing up my first child to play football, I figured it couldn’t be very hard to stand on the sidelines cheering my kid on. I quickly learned that being your child’s cheerleader is not the hard part of being a sports parent, it’s the stuff surrounding the game that gets tricky.

If you are new to sports parenting, here are some pointers on what to expect as you begin your youth sports journey:

There Will Be Crazy Parents

Every sports parent will exhibit a moment of bad behavior one in a while. However, there are some parents who are consistently pushy, obnoxious, impatient, selfish, and blind to how their child is hurt by his parent's poor behavior. My suggestion? Steer clear of these type of parents and don’t let their negativity influence you.

Youth Sports Can Drain Your Wallet

Whether your child plays school ball or in an organized little league, there are always costs associated with participation. Costs include league fees, equipment, and refreshments. In high school the costs increase as there are warm-up suits, matching shoes, and team shirts. If your child is truly pursuing athletics, then there may be costs involving travel ball, lessons, camps, and clinics. If you are not careful with how much you invest in your child's athletic endeavors, you may have to take out a second mortgage on your home.

My suggestion? Weigh the pros and cons of each opportunity and don’t get sucked into things your child doesn’t really need.

You Will Probably Have Coaching Conflicts

If your child plays sports long enough, sooner or later, he will have a coach either you or he doesn’t like. Maybe the coach doesn’t seem to know what he is doing, doesn’t know how to relate to kids, only cares about winning, doesn’t care at all about winning or maybe he’s coaching just to see his kid be the star.

My suggestion? Use it as an opportunity to teach your child how to get along with difficult people.

You Will Get Frustrated with Officials

Officials will miss calls, seem biased, appear ignorant of certain rules or come across as thin-skinned. When this happens, it’s okay to moan and groan a little bit, but don’t embarrass your child or yourself with your behavior.

Your Child Can’t Always Be the Star

Parents are naturally biased about their kids’ abilities and think their child should always be playing. How can the coach not see that my little Johnny is the best quarterback on the team?

My suggestion? Try to realize that maybe your child may not be the phenom you believe he is. 

Your Child Will Not Always Listen

Trying to coach your kid when he doesn’t want your help will hurt your relationship. More importantly, if he doesn’t want your help, he will not hear a word you say.

My suggestion? Sometimes it’s better to let someone else do the coaching, especially for the sake of positive relationship with your child.

You Are Going to Be Challenged as a Parent

Being a sports parent will test your character as much as sports will test your child’s. There will be times that you’ll seethe, cry, bang your head against a wall, feel like punching a few people, and maybe even say things you regret. However, if you can remember to accept these individual experiences as challenges and learn from your mistakes, you too, will grow up in the process.

You Will Experience Exhilarating Moments

It’s so fun to watch your child win an award, show his character, be the star, overcome adversity, or be an inspiration to those around him. However, always remember that true success is not measured in statistics or awards, but by the person your child becomes as a result of facing and overcoming the challenging experiences that sports offer.

Your Child Might Get Injured

It’s never easy to watch an injury happen, whether it is something as simple as a tweaked ankle or more long-term injuries, like a broken arm. Remember, your child will recover and play again. If an injury occurs, then be sure your son doesn’t hurry back too quickly. Instead, ensure that enough time passes for proper healing to take place.

Youth Sports Can Get Political

Unfortunately, politics in youth sports is a reality. My suggestion? The best way for you to deal with the drama is to stay out of it.

If you are new sports parents, these warnings are not meant to scare you off. Instead, they are merely a reminder that youth sports comes with both good and bad experiences and it’s up to you to show your child how to deal with both.


Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called Her new book 11 Habits for Happy and Positive Sports Parents is on Amazon.