5 ways a parent can ruin the youth football experience for a child

By Peter Schwartz | Posted 5/26/2015

Don’t be deceived by the headline. This can happen in any youth sport.

Winning and losing certainly plays a role in a child’s overall experience, but aside from that, parents’ actions and reactions can affect what should be an enjoyable morning, afternoon or evening.

It’s important to teach kids about fundamentals and sportsmanship, but how do we, as parents, expect our children to act appropriately when parents can’t get their act together in the bleachers?

Here are five ways that parents can adversely affect the youth football experience or any football experience.

  • Telling everyone your child is awesome. We are all proud of our children’s accomplishments both on and off the field. It’s great to cheer on your kid and have that extra gleam in your eye if he or she scores a touchdown or makes a big tackle. Keep this in mind. Everybody else probably saw it. Don’t say, “Did you see my son run 90 yards for that touchdown? He’s really a great player. That’s my boy.” Roger Cheer on your child and the rest of the team, but let’s not get carried away. Calm down and enjoy the rest of the game or practice.
  • Screaming at the officials. Yeah, it’s frustrating to see a call go against your child’s team. Been there. Done that. Got the postcard. Here’s the bottom line: Yelling at the officials isn’t going to change the call. Let the coaches do the talking and stress to your child beforehand that he or she shouldn’t yell at the officials. I’ve seen a few embarrassing situations – me included – that could have been avoided with some self-control. Officials are human, and they make mistakes. Just like our kids. Sometimes we forget about that.
  • Embarrassing your child after a bad play. So your child dropped a pass, fumbled the ball or missed a tackle. Big deal. No reason to point that out to him in a loud fashion from the bleachers. He or she is already feeling bad about it. They don’t need you making it worse. Later on, when you get home, ask your child if he wants to talk about the play. Discussing it at the game will only draw more attention to it. For that matter, don’t embarrass other children on the team. That can really put everyone in an awkward situation. Always be positive, say, “good try,” and let the coaches do the critiquing.
  • Not focusing on the game. I preface this by saying that many families have another child at the game that is not playing. That little boy or girl could be little and not interested in the game. Hopefully, both parents can be there, and they can take turns paying attention to the sibling. Aside from that, you are there to see your child play. It’s not good, and I’ve seen this, when a kid makes a great play and the parent is on his/her phone or yapping with someone else and not paying attention. That is not fair to the child. This is not happy hour for adults. Watch the practice or game. That’s your kid out there. He wants you to pay attention.
  • It’s about the kids, so don’t make it about you. To me, this is the most important aspect of being a youth sports parent. For those few hours, the focus needs to be on your child. Not to say you can’t share any big news with the other parents, but do your best to make it about the kids. Keep in mind that you are there to see your child as well as the other boys and girls enjoying their experience.

Youth sports is just about that – our youth. Sometimes, adults forget that. The experience, whether it’s at practice or at a game, is not an event on your social calendar. You are there to support your child as well as the other kids on the team.

Don’t be that parent. It’s not about you. It’s about the kids.

Peter Schwartz is an anchor and reporter for CBS Sports Radio and WFAN Radio in New York. You can read his general CBS New York sports blog at http://newyork.cbslocal.com/tag/peter-schwartz/. You can follow him on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan. Peter and his wife, Sheryl, are the proud parents of Bradley and Jared. Bradley plays for the Levittown Red Devils of the Nassau Suffolk Football League on Long Island in New York. Jared cheers him on and Bradley returns the favor when Jared is playing soccer.