If you believe headlines, viral videos, and pop culture, the overbearing parent is the norm in American youth sports. Reality televisions shows track over-the-top mothers and fathers pushing their kids and screaming at coaches and officials. News stories report unfortunate incidents of parents beating up referees or opposing spectators. And movies have depicted crazy sports parents for decades, since Vic Morrow’s character in “The Bad News Bears” smacked his son during a baseball game.
One response to parental misdeeds is to minimize parent involvement altogether. Keep them on the sidelines, tell them to stay quiet during games, and any problems will be solved, right? This is an overreaction to what is really just a minority of obnoxious parents. Youth sports leagues—especially those geared at younger players and on the recreational level—need parent involvement to thrive. Taking such support out of the equation will hurt your league in the short term and the long run. Here are four reasons why you can’t run a youth league without parent involvement:
1. League directors can’t do it alone
League administrators are busy people. Registration, promotion, scheduling, and keeping the league website updated are among the duties directors must handle. Any help setting up fields, working concession stands, operating the scoreboards, and so on, will make their jobs easier. Overworked directors end up not doing their jobs as well as they wish they could, and the league suffers. Important tasks go undone, and again, the league suffers. Yet, most leagues can’t afford to pay anyone, even high school students at minimum wage, to do this work. Therefore, organizations encourage parents to volunteer to help—and this help reaps incredible benefits. Parental involvement not only gives admins a break, but also creates stronger leagues.
2. Coaches can’t do it alone
The coaches who volunteer to run teams also face a seemingly never-ending string of responsibilities, not the least of which is to create an instructional, positive, and fun experience for the players under their care. Often, the ancillary tasks are the ones that become too much, ultimately taking away from the time and energy they have to coach. Parent involvement eases some of this burden. Volunteers who assemble snack schedules, keep the scorebook, take and post pictures, or assist during practice are invaluable to coaches (often, parents themselves), who can then focus more on the actual coaching. Even parents reminding their kids to listen to Coach during practice is a big help.
3. Active parents, successful teams
When parents are involved—but not overbearing—in their children’s teams, something amazing can happen: The team becomes successful. Remember, success isn’t always gauged in terms of victories and losses, but in terms of improvement, camaraderie, and smiles. Coaches know their parents have their back and go the extra mile to lead their teams. League directors identify active families and take the time to address any concerns or provide additional opportunities. Referees and umpires recognize supportive parents and take the time to teach players rather than just officiate. Parent involvement builds great teams as well as great leagues.
4. Community builders
When parent involvement hits a zenith, teams become more than teams, and leagues become more than leagues. Both become communities that foster lasting friendships among parents and parents alike. Every season is a joy to start; every closing day produces a little bit of sadness. We want strong communities for our children, and active, positive sports parents who never lose perspective and are encouraged to contribute can facilitate that goal.
How involved are parents in your league?