Teach Your Children the Fun and Safe Way to Have a Sports Rivalry

By Janis Meredith | Posted 3/30/2021

Sports and rivalries go hand-in-hand. The contests and the histories between teams can unite communities and inspire athletes to do their best. But sometimes fans lose perspective and rivalries become marred by vandalism, insults, threats, and violence.

It is imperative that parents help their kids understand there is a right way and a wrong way to handle sports rivalries. 


There is simply no place for vandalism in youth sports. 

A few years back, a local game in our community ended in ugliness when a school bus full of high school athletes was shot at by a paintball gun twice as it traveled home from the game. Luckily the bus kept driving safely and no one was hurt. A local reporter led the call against rivalry vandalism, “Enough! Adults need to set an example. Administrators need to make examples of both positive and negative behaviors. Students need to realize their actions shape perception of their school.”


At that same game, there were also gay and racial slurs hurled at players, and one girl basketball player was surrounded by a mob, challenged and taunted.

Light-hearted taunting is one thing, but individuals and crowds taunting and chanting R-rated slurs are something that should never be tolerated. 

The demonization of the opposing team is a sign the rivalry may be tilting toward something uglier, says Jim Thompson, founder and president of Positive Coaching Alliance. “When there are name-calling and taunting, it can very quickly lead to physical strife,” he says. Threats of violence, vandalization of school property, cheering when an opposing player is injured – these are attitudes that can feed into something worse. Our kids need to know that this is simply not okay.


As much as possible, parents. teachers and administrators should say yes to positive displays of school pride. Whether that’s noisy chanting, loud cheering, ridiculous costumes, or rowdy band music. The more we say “yes” to displays of rivalry that are clean, fun, safe, the times when we have to say no will lessen. 

We all need to remember these are games. We need to remind ourselves that the lessons learned from them are what our sons and daughters carry with them into adulthood, and that includes what your kids are learning about sports rivalries.

Janis Meredith is a family life coach who wants to help parents raise champions. You can find out more at rcfamilies.com.