Handling Another Parent's Inappropriate Comment

By Peter Schwartz | Posted 2/2/2021

Youth sports are supposed to be about the kids and the student-athletes who take to the fields, courts, and rinks to have fun and compete. It’s also about the coaches and administrators who work hard to ensure that our children and young adults are learning the fundamentals and playing in a safe environment. There should also be a shout out to the officials who play a big role in youth sports and make no mistake about the responsibility that they have to keep games in control.

When it comes to parents, there’s no questioning the important role that they play in youth sports. As a parent, it’s a joy to watch a child learn to love sports and then start playing sports. My wife Sheryl and I love being at the games and cheering on, not only our sons Bradley and Jared but also all of the kids and student-athletes on their respective teams. There’s an extra special feeling when your child does something great in a game whether it’s a great block that leads to a touchdown, scoring a goal in hockey, a flawless shotgun snap to the quarterback, or a line-drive hit to the opposite field in baseball.

But sometimes, parents say things at games that make you want to scratch your head.

Some things I’ve heard over the years include:

“Who is this number 34?  He has no business being on the field!”

“Why are we running that play?  We have no O-line?”

What would you do as a parent if you heard another parent say something derogatory about another player on your child’s team or even about your child if that other parent didn’t know you were that kid’s parent?

What would you do if another parent said something less than flattering about a player on the other team or just about the other team in general?

I’ve heard people say things about my kids and there are sometimes where I’ll playfully say something back like “hey there that’s not nice” just in case whatever they said was being said jokingly. But there are also times when you know the person is saying something derogatory. So, what do you do?  

I believe the last thing you want to do is cause a scene in the stands because then the kids, coaches, and officials will see it and it could lead to a bigger problem. If you have a problem with something that someone said, wait for a stoppage in play and go up to that person quietly to discuss.  

That person may be embarrassed about what they said and apologize or if not, then you can have a discussion privately without causing a big scene. You could also reach out to your child’s coach or athletic director to report what you heard, and it can be taken care of that way. But clearly, the last thing you want to do is create a scene in the stands that your child will see.

Sometimes, you also have to take things with a grain of salt. There are times when a parent is just not informed and to be completely honest, they just don’t know what they’re talking about. There are times when I just want to turn around to someone and say, “Did you really just say that?” Sometimes, I just sit there and shake my head and continue watching the game. There are also instances where maybe you just wait for the right time to respond to someone, especially if the comment was made about your child.

Going back to this comment…

“Who is this number 34?  He has no business being on the field!”

Well, number 34 was my son Bradley. This was a lacrosse game, just the second game that Bradley had ever played in his life. It was in middle school and within about a minute, Bradley dropped the ball and then threw an errant pass. I was in the bleachers watching and I knew it was going to bother him even though he was new to the sport. But then, that comment was made by the mother of another player on the team that was sitting behind me. Since our family was new to lacrosse, she had no idea that I was 34’s father, so all I did was turn around and I gave her this death stare. She then realized I was 34’s father so she was quiet the rest of the game and at future games, she made sure not to sit anywhere near my family.  

Fast forward to the last game of the season when Bradley scored the first goal of his career with about two minutes to go in the season. All of the players and coaches congratulated and hugged him because of how hard he had worked all season. Many of the parents came over to my wife and I to express how happy they were for Bradley. When things calmed down, I stood up and screamed proudly, “I guess 34 belongs on the field after all!”

By the way, that “we have no O-line comment?”  Yeah, Bradley plays center in football and at the next game when they scored a touchdown I said, “Great job offensive line."

Some people just don’t get it and there are ways to make sure that they do. It’s important to remember that you can’t control other’s people’s comments and reactions, but you can control yours.    

Peter is a sports anchor for the CBS Sports Radio Network and WFAN Radio in New York.  His son Bradley is a freshman in high school and is a participant in the U.S. National Team program while his younger son Jared enjoys playing flag football.   Peter, his wife Sheryl and the boys are busy cheering on the New York Jets when they’re not at a high school or flag football field.