Parents with Kids in Sports: Chill Out!


Parents with Kids in Sports: Chill Out!

I grew up around sports. Everyone in my family played sports when they were kids, my parents watched sports on TV, and we always attended sporting events together. When I moved to Knoxville as an eight-year-old, I began playing sports myself. My first sport was soccer, which I was not very good at, but my parents wanted to get me involved in something since we were new to the area. The only things I remember from playing soccer are that I had a great coach and I was the last kid on the team to score a goal and everyone cheered really loudly for me. After two seasons of soccer, I switched to softball and basketball. My dad was my coach until middle school. I remember him being really hard on me, but he never yelled at me or embarrassed me during games. Sports offered a sort of bonding experience for us and I have really great memories of those days. 

I’m thankful that my husband and kids share a love of sports with me. My son started playing soccer when he was three-years-old and met one of his best friends that season. Since then, he has played baseball, flag football, and basketball. My daughter also started playing soccer when she was three. She has also participated in gymnastics and basketball. My husband and I love watching our kids play, but sometimes we can be tough on them. We tend to forget how young they are; however, we want them to succeed in whatever they do, as do most parents. But what if they make a mistake or don’t have the best game?

Having been around sports for the majority of my life, I am having a really difficult time with the way many parents act on the sidelines towards their own children. 

I cannot believe some of the things I hear from parents during youth sporting events. My husband and I are not innocent in this. My son struck out in a baseball game once and I yelled, “You have to swing the bat!” As soon as it came out of my mouth, I was so embarrassed, not as much for him, but for myself. I felt like the worst mom ever. I have no idea why I thought yelling that out was a good idea. As if he didn’t know that he is supposed to swing the bat. What we have recently learned is that we cannot control our kids’ performance. Yelling and screaming at them from the sidelines does not help. If anything, it makes it worse. I have heard parents threaten to take their kids home or pull them out of the game to come sit and watch if they don’t play better. It is certainly fine to have high expectations when your kids are playing at a competitive level, but it is not fair to punish, threaten to punish, or embarrass them for making mistakes. Even professional athletes make mistakes. As parents, we can yell, give advice, make eye contact, make hand gestures, and threaten punishment, but is any of that actually going to help in the middle of a game? Probably not. My advice for parent etiquette during youth sporting events is to chill out. 

Cheer in a positive way for your kids and their teammates, leave your kids alone during games, smile at them or give them a thumbs up if you make eye contact, and let the coach do the coaching. 

Parents tend to put so much pressure on their young kids and stress out if they are not performing well. I get it though. At some point, if your kids are playing at a high level, they have to try out and make “the team.” Recently I overheard a mom turn to her husband and say, “He is going to need a psychiatrist after this.” Um, excuse me, what?!?! No kid should ever be mentally broken down after participating in a sporting event because of pressure from parents or pressure that they have to play well enough to continue to be a part of a certain “team.” Kids should be encouraged and should always strive for improvement, especially if they are playing a sport they love. 

I truly believe that the majority of kids involved in organized sports play because they want to have fun, they have a genuine love for the game, and they can spend time bonding with friends. They certainly do not play just to please their parents. If your kid makes a mistake or has a bad game, continue to encourage him or her and ask the following questions: Did you have fun? Did you give your best effort? How can you improve for next time? My husband and I have learned that we need to be a positive support system and let our kids have fun so they can have fond memories of their time playing youth sports. Eventually a time will come when they no longer play and all they will have left are the memories. Make them positive! 

What do you do when your kid has a bad game? 

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Meredith Mousa
¡Hola! I’m Meredith. I have lived in Knoxville most of my life and I am proud to call it home – Go VOLS! I’m a mom to Hunter (born 2009) and Sophia (born 2012). They keep my husband and I super busy but certainly make our lives interesting and adventurous. I used to be the type of person who had to plan everything out, but once I became a mom, I had to let go of that and learn to go with the flow, which is actually much more fun and exciting. In addition to being a mom, I’m a high school Spanish teacher. Some of my favorite things to do are watch sports, shop at Target, and travel.


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