When the basketball rolled out of bounds, I had to hold my emotions in. This boy who lost the ball was laughing about it and was showing off. The coach laughed along with him and applauded this teammate’s bad attitude and unsportsmanlike behavior. I heard parents jeer at children and yell at refs. I was appalled. The way this game was going, it sounded like we were sitting at the Super Bowl and not at an elementary school basketball game.
Growing up playing sports all the way through college, I was excited as a parent to have my children participate in sports. I knew that my participation in sports taught me hard work, fair play and perseverance. Unfortunately, youth sports are getting a pretty bad rap these days for poor sportsmanlike conduct, a majority of it by parents. In 2017, a study from The National Association of Sports Officials, which represents youth, amateur, college and pro sports, found that 40% of officials name parents as the source of unsportsmanlike conduct.
So why are parents behaving so badly and becoming emotionally over-invested?
Some of the reasons include financial and time investment. Some parents expect significant return on their investment, such as college scholarships and pro contracts. Sports also provides a tribe and community among parents. No one wants to be left out of their community during try outs and team picks. Their social circle will look very different. In addition, kids just want to have fun. No pressure; just play. Parents suck the life out of sports and no one wants to participate.
I get excited when I watch my kids play! I love to see them learn and grow and interact with their team. I want them to do their best and grow in their sport. I hope I that I never put pressure on them to feel like their only success can be on the field. I promise to always smile and cheer.