Parent Behavior at Games
“Behavior is a mirror in which everyone displays his own image.”
‐‐German author, Johann von Goethe
Some sports fans have the misguided notion that the purchase of a ticket buys the right to
practice rowdy, rude, repugnant, and sometimes dangerous behavior in the stands. Too many
sports parents fall short of good game conduct. In many cases, their actions negatively impact
others, including their own children. You must follow this guiding principle: Nothing around the
game –from rowdy fans, to demonstrative players, to overbearing parents‐‐‐should ever become
more important that the game itself.
A Big Challenge
When you attend a game in which your child is competing, your self‐restraint is likely to be
challenged, sometimes severely. Many parents identify so closely with their child’s performance
that they take it very personally when a “bad call,” mistake, or rough play occurs. At some point
during your child’s sports career, you can be certain that several of the following situations will
• The coach employs a strategy with which you disagree
• A fan says something that annoys you
• An observer makes negative comments about your child
• The officials make one or more bad calls
• Your child makes one or more mistakes
• The coach isn’t playing your child
• The coach does not play your child in the “right” position
• Teammates do not pass the puck to your child
• The coach yells at your child
• Fans or opponents try to rattle your child
• Your child makes a critical mistake which directly affects the outcome of the game.
Any one of these situations can test your emotional, verbal or physical self‐control. Remember,
in your own small way, you contribute to the success of each game by behaving properly. Your
sports parenting goal is to be a positive role model displaying self‐restraint and good
Eleven Behaviors to Avoid
Fan behavior can easily succumb to a “domino effect” when one or more negative, loud, or
unruly fans trigger similar behavior among other observers. To help prevent such chain
reactions among your fellow fans, at the beginning of the season, ask the coach to present good
sportsmanship guidelines which specifically list unacceptable behaviors for parents, coaches
and players. Offer to assist the coach by helping to write the first draft. Feel free to use, or
share with the coach, the following points. Some may appear obvious, but because they
continue to occur, they’re worth mentioning:
1. Do not mutter nasty criticisms about other players. This incites more parent conflict than any
other fan behavior.
2. Do not needle the officials or opposing players in order to distract them and interfere with the
game. Some parents have developed low-volume harassment into an art form.
3. Do not goad other parents into acting inappropriately, and do not join those who do.
4. Do not argue with or respond to the negative comments of poorly behaving fans, especially
5. Do not make angry, loud or profane comments about coaches, players, officials, or other fans.
6. Do not throw objects of any sort. Believe it or not, this happens.
7. Do not scold or yell at your child—or any child—about poor play, during or after a game.
8. Do not try to communicate with the coach during a game. Let the coach concentrate.
9. Do not yell instructions or try to communicate with your child during the game. Your
instructions may embarrass and/or confuse your child and undermine the coach’s authority.
10. There is a difference between a positive cheer and an ear-piercing screech. Be supportive of
your team, but do not allow your cheering to become so loud or relentless that those around you
wish they had earplugs!
11. Do not become a boorish “rules expert.” Whether or not you have some knowledge of the
rules, refrain from loudly correcting questionable calls by officials.
Where to Sit
For a number of reasons, where one sits at a game can become an issue. Sit wherever you are
most comfortable. You may want to take a folding chair in case you choose to sit away from
a group of fans because:
• Sitting near opposing fans subjects you to a barrage of hostile comments.
• Some parents use game time to loudly socialize and gossip.
• You find it stressful to watch your child perform, and sitting alone helps you maintain your
• Your team’s verbal assault squad makes it unpleasant to sit with the group.
• You fear you may respond with unpleasant comments when you hear criticisms of your child.
• You prefer to focus quietly on the game without feeling obligated to engage in the polite
chitchat. If people want to talk, tell them you will touch base after the game.
Whether it is enjoying the camaraderie of the crowd or sitting alone at the far end of the field,
it is your right to enjoy watching your child’s competition from whatever vantage point you
choose. I often find solitude an agreeable game companion.
If your child expresses a preference regarding where you sit, I would be inclined to honor such a
request, because it might help your child maintain focus on playing, without mental distractions
associated with looking at or hearing mom or dad.