Very few things bring out more emotion in parents than watching their kids play youth sports. It is almost impossible to be emotionally detached when one's own child is playing. Showing emotion is normal and a sign that parents care, which kids will recognize, appreciate and understand.
The problem comes in when parents choose to display their emotions in a way that takes the focus away from the kids who are playing. Unfortunately, overenthusiastic parents and coaches often take the fun out of sports for young athletes, fans and other parents.
Signs of over enthusiasm include: bragging incessantly about kid's sports achievements; placing too much emphasis on a child's career; and giving false praise to kids. Of course, the biggest sign of over enthusiastic parents are making a "scene" at their kids' games — to the point that makes others uncomfortable.
Signs of this behavior are cheering too loud, coaching from the stands, berating players on the opposing team, and second guessing game officials. All of these signs of over-zealous adults can easily take the fun out of youth sports. Additionally, the tension created by this behavior often leads to ugly, memorable confrontations. Zeal and enthusiasm are great but adults who go over the line of appropriate behavior give sportsmanship a bad name.
Following are suggestions for how to deal with over-zealous sport parents and coaches:
1. Adults, who notice an unpleasant situation, should discuss the situation with as many team parents as possible to find the level of unhappiness about this behavior.
2. When many parents agree that the situation is unhealthy, they should approach the team coaches, as long as a coach is not the problem.
3. If a coach is part of the problem, parents can call a parent meeting and approach the coach as a group.
4. If there is a parent that is a good friend of the problem parent, the friend should be the one to approach them, when they are willing. When there is not a willing friend, a mandatory team parent meeting should be called to discuss the situation.
5. E-mail and telephone are acceptable means of initial communication to avoid a scene at the field.
6. Hopefully, an agreement can be worked out among all. When things do not change a league official may have to be contacted with concerns.
7. When the abusive situation comes from the opposing team, a letter or phone call to the opponent's director is a course of action, so at least someone is made aware of the situation.
When the negative situation involves a player and their own parent, it gets much more difficult. This parent should only be approached when it negatively affects more people than their child. As much as people may want to help the child of the negative parent, this may not be their place. Talking to this parents spouse may be a possible line of action, though.
No matter the course of action taken, these situations provide other parents with great teaching moments for their kids. Letting kids know that you are aware of the situation, do not agree with it and that you are trying to help the situation is a good thing.
Jack Perconte played 12 years of professional baseball. After retiring from professional baseball in 1987, Perconte opened a baseball training academy in Naperville, Ill. He has also written “Raising an Athlete,” and writes for the blog positiveparentinginsports.com.