How Not To Be “THAT” Sports Dad

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With the fall come the shortening of days, the colouring of leaves and beginning of the next round of extra curricular activities for children. Here in Canada, it is the commencement of hockey season – early morning practices and late night games fill our calendars. It becomes engrained in our lives. The sport dictates our travel schedules, and dinner plans. It requires financial commitment, fundraising efforts and countless volunteer hours.

It is fair to say that with this level of commitment to a sport, families are truly participating with their children. As a result, parents sometimes find it difficult to separate themselves from the game, blurring their boundaries of involvement and damagingly over-engage in the activity.

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In my years of playing competitive sports I’ve seen parental conduct on both ends of the spectrum, from amazing to appalling. Witnessing these types of behaviour as a child, it is the disruptive, unacceptable acts that I remember most vividly. I have witnessed fistfights between spectators, altercations with coaches and belligerent yelling from the stands. Sadly, because of the examples cited above, the adverse behaviour of spectators has driven the necessity for some leagues to implement code of conduct contracts for parents.

As a sports dad, I would never want to become “that” parent. In all facets of life, I strive to provide the best example to my son and this doesn’t end when we enter the hockey arena.

Support your child and follow this dad’s advice on how not to be “that” sports parent:

Keep things private:

If you have an issue, it’s the responsibility of the player and the parent(s) to address it with the coach and not with the other parents or athletes. Spreading gossip, speaking behind someone’s back or making disparaging comments undermines the coach and is divisive to the team. If you need to discuss any concerns, arrange a meeting with the coach privately so you can focus on the issue without distraction or being disruptive.

Be positive:

No one likes a heckler. If you are an involved and enthusiastic parent, keep the language positive. Cheer for the whole team and acknowledge the athleticism of not only your child, but also of his or her teammates.

Support the coach:

Sports parents come from varying backgrounds – from being former professional athletes to those who have never stepped foot into an arena or on a field. Whether you’re a rookie or a pro, it’s important that you positively support the coach by attending meetings, adhering to team rules, arriving on time to practices and games and following through with fundraising commitments. If you have experience playing a sport and want to help, offer to assist but never try to fill the coach’s shoes.

It’s also important to ensure that you do not undermine the coaches. Let them be responsible for their job. Comments such as, “you’re coach should have done _______” do not add value after a match. Remember that the coach wants to see the team and your child do well.

Model good sportsmanship and behaviour:

Children learn a great deal through observation. If you don’t exhibit self-control and enact bad sportsmanship on the sidelines, this encourages young athletes to do the same. Parents should be held to a higher behavioural standard and provide a positive example for the entire team.

Be humble:

Being a sports parent is exciting. The feeling you experience while watching your child excel at something they are passionate about is a gift. But remember it is your family’s gift and no one else’s. Although it may be difficult to curb your enthusiasm when speaking to others about your child’s success, remember to be humble. Or you may come across as bragging or arrogant and alienate yourself from the team.

Next time you and your child enter an arena or step onto a field, remember that your child is always watching. Provide a good example as a spectator, be supportive of the coach and the entire team, don’t fall into the trap of gossiping with fellow parents, and display humility when your child excels.

Remember these tips and best of luck for the upcoming season.

Mathew Lajoie is a regular contributor to The Dad Network. To read more from Mathew, visit his blog

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  1. Sarah MumofThree World

    As a sports mum, who is also married to the under 12s football coach, I agree with all of these! I would also like to see a bit of support from parents with things like taking down goalposts etc, too many parents can’t wait to get away at the end of the game and don’t think that maybe the coach would like to get away too!

    • Mathew Lajoie

      That’s a really good point, Sarah. Parents need to support the team and coaches in whatever ways they can. Helping at the end of games or practices will definitely demonstrate that the parent backs the coach and the team and sets a great example for the kids.

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