“One of the things we have to do is to teach parents to respect the game, the coaches, the players, and the referees—all the things that go into making this activity happen.” —Dale England, Past President, Winnipeg Minor Hockey Association
The media reports incidents of unsportsmanlike and sometimes illegal conduct by sport parents. And most of us have witnessed (or at least heard stories about) the very real problems created by uninformed parents who simply “go too far.” However, an even worse-case scenario involves parents who don’t get involved and never show up for games or practices.
Fortunately, the vast majority of parents behave appropriately at youth sport events. But the minority who misbehave can spoil it for all the rest. It takes only a few inconsiderate parents to turn what should be a pleasant atmosphere into a nightmare for all concerned.
It is as American as apple pie to boo and criticize judgments made by sport officials. But such behavior has no place in youth sports! Coaches, program administrators, sport officials and the athletes themselves have a right to demand that spectators conform to acceptable standards of behavior.
The following are important reminders about parents’ behavior toward on-ice officials:
- Sport officials are human and they make mistakes.
- The officials are honestly trying to do their best.
- Booing their decisions will not change the outcome or improve the situation in any way.
- Parents who “get on” officials provide very poor models for their children.
- Unruly parent behavior can be highly embarrassing to the young athlete.
- Heckling poisons the atmosphere and drives officials out of the game.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Frank L. Smoll, Ph.D., and Ronald E. Smith, Ph.D., for this article. Drs. Smoll and Smith are sport psychologists at the University of Washington and co-directors of Youth Enrichment in Sports. To see previews of their Mastery Approach to Parenting in Sports and Mastery Approach to Coaching DVDs, visit www.y-e-sports.com.