The damages of ‘harmless’ gossip in youth sports

By Janis Meredith | Posted 11/7/2018

Gossip in youth sports wears many cloaks:

  • Concern for the players
  • Trying to help others see the reality”
  • Venting to a sympathetic ear
  • Problem solving

And sometimes it wears no covering at all. It is outright retribution for someone you dislike or disrespect.

But the fact of the matter is gossip never solves the problem. In fact, it usually stirs up more problems and can damage relationships, someone’s self-esteem and ultimately your child’s team success.

RELATED CONTENT: 8 things athletes need from their sports dad

When you get pulled into sympathy groups,” better known as gossip-fests, remember the repercussions before you join in the discussion:

Words can hurt

Sometimes more than a punch, because a pain is over, but the trail of hurt behind a spoken word does not heal easily.

Gossip excludes

When a rumor is spread about someone — did you hear that Billy’s dad went and cussed out the coach after the game because he didn’t get to play very much? — is a signal that the person is out of that particular group. You may be making fun or pointing out negative things about him or her. This tends to make Billy’s dad feel like an outsider.

Gossip destroys trust

If you hear a parent gossip about another parent, doesn’t it make you wonder what that person says about you when you’re not around? And how do you know that person is not going to repeat something you said in confidence?

It may be true, but it’s also private

Let's say a parent tells you another parent on the team had an affair with yet another parent on the team. You may not feel bad passing that around because it’s true, right? But just because it’s factually correct doesn’t mean that it should be spread around. It can be painful and humiliating when people know things about us that we want to keep private.

Believing a rumor can result in bad choices

When you let a rumor determine your behavior, you are letting someone else make a decision for you. For instance, your child heard a rumor practice was cancelled because it had just rained, and the field had a few puddles on it. Expecting a day off of practice, he lays around and skips practice, only to find out the next day that practice had in fact not been canceled.

RELATED CONTENT: Helping your child deal with youth sports fears

Here's another example: the gossip grapevine has it that the new kid on the team is snobby, so your child avoids her. Your athlete doesn’t find out until the season is nearly over that really the new kid really wasn’t a snob, and your child wasted the entire season not making a new friend.

Here’s how to break the chain of gossip in youth sports:

When you hear gossipy information, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why should pass this on?
  • Would I want people to know this about me?
  • How will this person feel if knowing this rumor is being spread?
  • Will this rumor reduce this person's status or make him or her excluded from the group?


Don’t pass on the rumor

Others may decide to pass the gossip on, but you can make a choice to stay out of it.

Don't be an audience 

You may think you are being an innocent bystander,” but if you listen to the gossip, you are actually an accomplice. Walk away or change the subject, but do not just stand there and listen.

Get the facts

Most of the time, you should ignore gossip. But if you hear a rumor about something important, ask a coach, league official or parent what they think. For instance, the rumor about practice being canceled should have been verified with the coach or the team parent.

Gossip by any other name is still gossip

Whether it’s called idle talk, chatter, hearsay, slander, scuttlebutt or the grapevine, it’s still gossip, and it still causes damage. It’s easy for gossip to get started within a team or a league, and even harder to stop. Once gossip starts, it destroys team morale and damages relationships and reputations. Your child’s team will suffer damages both on-and-off the field or court.

RELATED CONTENT: 10 rules of a team player

Janis B. Meredith is a parenting coach. She provides resources to help parents raise champions. Learn more about how she can help parents Raise Champions.