Parent etiquetteLook at any family’s weekend agenda, and it is likely filled with various practice schedules and games. From tee-ball to soccer to cheer, parents today often spend their weekends coordinating drop-off and pick-up from one sport to another. 

There is a pressure for kids to be involved in as much as possible. Sure, we want our kids to find “the one”—a sport they love and excel in—but why have we seen an increase in parents behaving poorly at sporting events? 

We have all seen these videos: parents yelling at players, coaches, refs, and other parents. The inability to “let go” of our own competitive nature (you know, the “when I played this sport” mentality), the desire to raise the next Michael Phelps, and the bragging rights on social media are all factors in parents’ actions and attitudes. 

So, how can we support our kids without making local or national headlines? Here are some tips for parents to play by the rules. 

Be parents, first and foremost. While it may be hard to draw a line between the parent role and the coach role, there is a distinct different. A coach is “someone whose job is to teach people to improve at a sport, skill, or school subject.” This role identifies the coach as the expert in a field, and the person to make the right decisions for our kids on the field, on the court, or on the stage. A parent, on the other hand, is defined as “a person who brings up and cares for another.” As parents, our job is to support, so separating the roles is a must. 

Be role models. We may disagree with a call or decision, but acting in an aggressive way is not the way to handle a situation. Our behavior as parents is an indication to our children about what behavior is acceptable, appropriate, or warranted. Coaches and refs will make calls that we may not agree with, but we can’t go in swinging when we dislike those decisions. Asking a coach to clarify something after all is said and done will get a lot more traction. 

Don’t compare performances. Parents may over-parent or react negatively because they see other kids reaching more milestones, having more game time, or hoping for D1 opportunities. Keeping realistic expectations about kids’ development may sway our own competitive feelings. With younger athletes, sports help develop brains, build confidence and coordination, and foster social relationships, so knowing our own kids’ milestones is more important and can ease the desire to engage in behavior that give us a red card.

Let them have fun. We want and expect our kids to perform a certain way, so we may feel inclined to voice our opinions about what they are doing or not doing on the field. However, the pressure for kids to participate in various sports because we as parents want them to can have the opposite effect. Kids also need to have fun. Kids who love a sport will not battle over going to practice or competitions in the long run. Sure, there will always be times when kids “don’t feel like going to practice,” and pushing them to persevere is perfectly fine. Yet, if there is a passion for the sport, it will develop and show itself. Participation in sports inspires many positive life-long habits, which can be fostered by letting them have fun.

The idea that “Mama knows best” comes to mind; I have been there, thinking that I know better than someone else does when it comes to Henry. While we may “mean well,” we can’t always cry foul. After all, that would be quite unsportsmanlike.



Gretchen Tuchscherer, President, Moxie Sports Consulting (sports industry consultant based out of HHI, mother of three athletes).


Deirdre Johns is Mom to Henry, an eight and a half-year-old lover of animals and nature. She has been teaching English for thirteen years, currently at Hilton Head Christian Academy, and has lived in the Lowcountry with her family since 2012.