Don’t Be THAT Parent: Bleacher Rules Every Sports Parent Should Follow

Come on, parents... you KNOW who you are

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: Don’t Be THAT Parent: Bleacher Rules Every Sports Parent Should Follow

Written by: Marybeth Bock

Nearly every parent who’s spent any time on the bleachers (or on the sidelines) watching their kid play a sport has witnessed it – an overzealous (okay, let’s just call it what it is – annoying) parent who takes their kid’s athletics a little too seriously.

You know the ones… they scream at their kid, sometimes scream at other players and they’re notorious for duking it out with the coach, umpire, or referees when a play doesn’t go according to their expectations. They’re loud, unrelenting and, based on their behavior, you’d think there was a team of scouts sitting in the stands reviewing their kid’s athletic performance for a possible full-ride scholarship.

Don’t Be THAT Parent: Bleacher Rules Every Sports Parent Should Follow


And, it’s not just high school sports where there really could be a scout in the stands. It happens at the middle school level and sadly, even with young elementary school-aged kids.

I mean, I get it. The older our kids get, the higher the stakes get. A lot of kids are, in fact, fighting for coveted sports scholarships. They worked their tail off dedicating years and years to their sport and they deserve a shot.

As for their parents, they put a boatload of money into their kid’s sport, endless support, and countless hours carting them to practices, games, playoffs, tournaments and championships, not to mention the travel that’s often involved. 

With all that time, money, and energy invested in their child’s sport, they simply can’t bear the thought of their kid or their kid’s team coming in second.

They want their kid to succeed, they want their kid to be the best, they want them to be noticed and by God they want them to land a scholarship so they can score those bragging rights. 

But heads up parents, when we find ourselves getting a little too caught up in our kids’ games and we lose sight of why our kids are actually there – to have fun, to become team players, learn discipline, build resilience, and foster mental and physical strength, (to name a few), at some point, we have to ask ourselves:

“Is my behavior more about me and what I want or expect or more about what’s best for my child?”

We’re not doing our kid any favors by screaming louder than all the other parents or scolding our child (or other players) for missing the ball or fumbling a play. Our kids are looking to us for support and encouragement. They don’t need us piling on added pressure by having high or unrealistic expectations. 

Whether our kids are in little league, competing in the playoffs in a middle school soccer game, or fighting for the championship in a high school football game, we have to remember…

We hold the power to teach our kids how to play sports the right way, to encourage them for all the right reasons, and to be a positive role model by exhibiting class, decency, and good sportsmanship.

I know it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of our kids’ sports. Hey, most sports parents have been there. But we all need to keep these bleacher rules in mind, not only for our sake but also for our kids’ sake.

Parental DON’TS:

Yell at Your Kid From the Sidelines

Cheer them on, clap and offer your child encouragement. Don’t yell, shake your fists or lose your cool. Not only are you embarrassing yourself, but you’re also embarrassing your child – even if they don’t admit it. 

Criticize Other Players

Even if everyone knows that one player had a tough game or they made a mistake that cost the team the game, keep your criticism to yourself. Don’t gossip with other parents or talk poorly about the player to your teen. If you model compassion and support for every team member, so will your teenager. (Plus, it’s only a matter of time before your teen has a crummy game and you won’t appreciate others talking poorly about your child.)

Hash it Out with Referees or Officials

Yep, sometimes a bad call comes in and it affects the outcome of an important game. Leave it to the coaches to communicate with the officials, who are usually not well compensated and are involved in youth sports because they truly love the sport and enjoy helping kids learn sportsmanship. Don’t make their jobs any harder. 

Address Your Concerns with the Coach Publicly

I’ve watched parents yell at coaches about the lack of their teen’s playing time right in front of everyone and it never goes well. If you have a valid concern about your teen’s role on the team, text, call, or email the coach and ask if there is a convenient time to have a conversation. And, when you do talk with the coach, keep things calm and in perspective.  

Focus Solely on Winning

Chances are, your kid isn’t headed to the pros, regardless of how good a player you think they are. According to LeagueSide.Com, “roughly 853 football players (0.00075%) make the pros each year out of nearly 1.1 million high school athletes. To put that number in perspective, that’s about the same odds of getting struck by lightning at some point in your life.” And, other sports are equally as competitive. So, emphasize and encourage personal improvement, physical activity, team bonding, and FUN. Winning is great, but it shouldn’t be the sole focus of playing.

Live Vicariously Through Your Kid

Perhaps one of the most important bleacher rules (and parenting don’ts) of all… don’t live vicariously through your child. Don’t force your teen to play “your” sport if they don’t love it. Let them choose the sport or hobby that interests them and give them your full support. You had your day in the sun. This is your teen’s time, not yours.

Parental DOs:

Teach Humility and Grace

Talk with your teen about team effort and winning and losing with grace. If they get too caught up in how well they are playing, remind them that the success is a result of the entire team, not just them. 

And, if they happen to be down about a bad day on the field, talk about the lessons learned and how to mentally get over the loss and focus on the next game or competition. Learning how to shake off a bad day and move on is a life skill that will serve them well in adulthood. 

Focus on Your Kids’ Effort

It’s easy for teens to get caught up in and discouraged by their lack of ability. They wish they could jump as high as their friend in basketball, or pitch as fast as their teammate. Some abilities can be enhanced with training and practice, while others might be harder to improve. Encourage your teen to keep their focus on effort as opposed to ability. With a dedicated commitment to keep pushing themselves, they might be shocked to see the results they yield. 

Be a Positive Role Model

Your teen is watching how you respond to a crummy call by the referee, how you handle it when the team loses and how you react when they have a horrible day on the field. Bottom line, be the role model your teen needs by acting like an adult. Your teen is silently taking it all in – every bit of it. Make your teen proud by following simple bleacher rules and giving them the amazing gift of grace, sportsmanship, and honor!

Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.



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