Why Parents Sometimes Go Crazy at Youth Sports Games

September 16, 2011 - Posted by Dr. Chris Stankovich to Coaching

We have all seen it before — “that” parent in the stands that yells profanities, disrupts a game, or even worse aggressively acts out by fighting with other fans, coaches, or even his own child.  Of course, nobody wants to be “that” parent, but it seems as though with every year that passes there are even more parents who don’t seem to be able to control themselves at youth sports games.  This leads to the million dollar question: Why?

I’ll bet you have never met a parent in your life who intentionally goes to youth games with the goal of being a jerk.  The truth is parents do not typically go to games looking for trouble, and in the vast majority of cases when parents do “lose it,” they often regret their actions terribly the next day.

Heres another fact that may surprise you — there really aren’t many truly “bad” parents who attend games, but instead adults who temporarily lose their cool in the middle of a game and snap.  Of course, this does not justify anyone acting out (especially those who cause physical harm), but it may be a nice segue into better understanding why some parents ruin the experience for everyone when they do stupid things at games.

While this may surprise folks, the truth is we are all potential candidates to be the next adult who says or does something at a youth sports game that we later end up regretting.  The reason for this can be summarized in the following points:

  • We are all human, and as humans we are apt to make mistakes – including having brief, momentary lapses of reason at youth sports games
  • Think of emotions and logic being on opposite ends of a line.  While you might be in a very logical mind-state sitting at home reading this article now, it’s likely your emotions will trump logic when your kid’s game starts later today.  Youth sports can be an incredibly emotional experience, and when we get emotional we simply don’t think logically.  Of course, this doesn’t make us bad people per se, but suggests that we sometimes struggle keeping things in check when we see our child miss a play that we know she can do.  Sports are fluid and often move very fast, and so do our emotions — it is for this reason that we don’t always think logically when we are excited about what we are experiencing.
  • Probably the biggest reason why parents sometimes “lose it” at games has to do with the cumulative efforts many families make so that their child can be successful at sports.  Just think about all the time, energy, and money many parents put into their child’s sports training — and then with all their hopes hanging in the balance they witness their child miss plays on the field that they know he can do!  It is in that moment that some parents simply crack, and the result is usually an off-color comment, negative body language, or even an aggressive act.

Please remember it is never appropriate to act out at youth games, and the intent of this article was to simply explain some of the things that contribute to those unfortunate times when parents lose it for a moment (not justify them).  All people are apt to make mistakes, and it is the emotional part of sport that often supersedes human logic when parents temporarily lose control.  It is also a different time today, one where some families spend unbelievable amounts of time and money devoted to sport development and training for their child.  With so much riding on their child’s athletic success, it can be especially frustrating to witness anything less than success.  The result, unfortunately, is often an unexpected loss of emotional control.

Fortunately, there are ways to safeguard against future problems — be sure to check out our expanding educational product line, including Sport Success 360, The Parents Playbook, and our audio products for parents!

www.drstankovich.com

Dr. Chris Stankovich

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