No matter how much we may try to have a “perfect” sports season, things can and will go wrong. Kids might get hurt or bored or burn out. Parents might be too busy to make it to every game. Coaches get frustrated or aggressive. It’s bound to happen to everyone sooner or later. And while most players, parents, and coaches can bounce back from one bad game or practice, there are a few things that can ruin a youth sports season for good.
Coaches that play favorites.
Most youth sports coaches are actually parents (usually Dads) with a child on the team. Plenty of parent-coaches go above and beyond to make sure it doesn’t seem like they are playing favorites with their child (sometimes going too far the other way and putting undo extra pressure on their player), but other coaches might just be volunteering in order to ensure their child is the star. Or maybe the pick up on who the “superstar” of the team is and that player gets all the attention and focus.
Parents that coach from the sidelines.
If you really think you’d make a better coach, by all means please volunteer next season! But for the time being keeping your coaching tips to yourself and just focusing on cheering. Coaching from the sidelines undermines the coach’s authority in front of the rest of the parents and the team, and it also puts your child in an awkward spot—do they listen to you or their coach? If the coach needs help running practice you can certainly volunteer as a pseudo assistant coach, but remember they are the ones running the show this season. Unless you feel like the coach is playing favorites, doesn’t care about the kids, or is being verbally abusive towards their players try to keep your frustrations to yourself during the game itself and talk about them one-on-one with the coach later.
Players who bully their teammates.
Above all else, kids should feel safe and accepted amongst their teammates. “Kids will be kids” is no excuse for one player (or group) tormenting another. A 2008 report found that 47% of students experience some form of hazing before graduating high school and 74% of college students on a varsity athletic team report going through hazing. While we do want our kids to learn how to be independent and settle their own disagreements, that doesn’t mean we can never step in. It’s our job to ensure the safety and well-being of all the kids. That means protecting them for their teammates (and sometimes even the coaches) when things go too far.
Coaches AND parents that take it way too seriously.
This is a GAME! And yes, we are going to get overly invested in a 10 year olds baseball game sooner or later, but at the end of the day youth sports has to be about the kids! Parents and coaches that take youth sports way too seriously can ruin the entire season for everyone. Hundreds of college athletes were asked to think back: “What is your worst memory from playing youth and high school sports?” Their overwhelming response: “The ride home from games with my parents.” Analyzing every mistake and play, as opposed to just focusing on the big picture, makes for a tense ride home. Parents and coaches that take sports too seriously can suck all the fun and joy out of youth sports and many believe that this is contributing to the fact that so many kids quit sports by the time they are 13.
Parents who force their children to play.
Most 6 year olds aren’t signing themselves up for Little League, but at a certain point kids have to want to play because they want to, not because they feel like they have to in order to please their parents. While we would always hope kids love to play soccer or basketball or lacrosse, the simple fact is that sports aren’t for everyone. Some kids would rather try karate over football, or swimming over tennis, or even learn to play an instrument versus learning how to throw a slider. It’s fairly obvious when an athlete has been forced/pressured into playing, and their defeated/frustrated/bored attitude can infect the rest of the team.