I am writing this long post in hopes that you will read this with an open mind and reflect honestly about your own situation. As a parent who has seen how negativity in sports impacts children (both my own kids and other kids), I felt compelled to express myself. This can apply to any sport or activity that involves children.
If this triggers discussion, self-reflection, and change in at least one person, then speaking frankly has been worth it to me…
1) Think twice before you make a negative comment or tell a player how they should be playing from the sidelines, especially if that player is not your child. The yelling from the sidelines is very hard on children. They don’t know how to process this negativity and it causes them stress. I have heard children say that they hate playing on the side of the parents, because they can’t stand the yelling. Sit back, let the kids play, and enjoy the experience. Let the coach do the coaching. Cheer on every player from the sidelines, giving positive encouragement and celebrate the fact that they are out there trying their best. If you feel the urge to coach from the sidelines, then direct those statements to only your child.
2) After a game, give praise to all players, not just the ‘super stars’. I heard one child say that they felt humiliated, because the parents were congratulating only certain players, but when it came to them the parents avoided their eyes and said nothing. Children see this. Also, children know when they had a bad game and they will do a pretty good job of beating themselves up – – adults shouldn’t be making them feel worse. Be positive towards all players, regardless of how they played. Better yet, go to the child that had a bad game and give them some encouragement and support. Every teammate adds value to the team.
3) If you observe your child speaking disrespectfully to their teammates during games or practice, talk to them and teach them that this is not appropriate behavior. Explain that it is not their job to publicly reprimand other players when a mistake is made and it is not their responsibility to be telling other players what to do. Constant yelling and being negative tears teams apart and causes players to lose trust in each other. The most important lesson that can be learned from being a part of team is respecting and supporting your teammates. This life lesson will serve them well in the future.
4) If your child is made the captain of the team, teach them how to lead by example and how to treat all players with respect. It should be considered an honor to be named the captain and they should take the leadership role seriously. Wearing that arm band does not give them the permission to yell and embarrass players. It’s a great opportunity to teach them how to be a good leader.
5) If your child comes home and tells you stories about how other players are yelling and saying disrespectful things at practice or during games, teach them how to stand up for themselves. Give them tools and ideas on how they can change and improve the situation. Teach them that being treated in that manner is not acceptable. Telling them to ignore it only enables the situation, indirectly tells them that it’s ok to be treated this way, and does not lead to positive change.
6) If you see your child publicly behaving badly after a loss, teach them that this is also not appropriate behavior. Part of being in sports is learning how to lose with dignity and how to treat opponents with respect. If they publicly behave disrespectfully after the loss of a game, imagine how they will behave when they are told ‘No’ or are given criticism by a High School teacher, a College professor, or a manager at their job when they are older. Teach them that emotions aren’t bad, but there is a time and place to show those negative emotions – – they can cry and express anger or frustration in the car on the way home, for example.I hope this helps some of you who deal with similar situations and provides an insight into how negativity in sports impacts children. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, so feel free to ignore this post if that’s the case.
When I saw this post and knowing this parent for many years as a former teammate of my son’s, it hit home on so many levels and if it can help one soccer parent improve their relationship with their son or daughter then it’s very worth it.
**Published with the authorization from the author