Good sideline behavior by parents sets the right example for your children. Here are some ways you can demonstrate good sportsmanship on the sidelines at your child's game.
Don't Criticize The Players
I remember standing with a group of parents after a middle school soccer game one beautiful, crisp New England fall afternoon. Our team had just suffered a heartbreaking loss when a player failed to connect on a pass to a wide open forward poised to score the tying goal on a breakaway. Bob, the father of the forward - who had scored both of our team's goals in the 3-2 loss - complained that it was "too bad we don't have any players who can score. My son had to play forward instead of shoring up the defense." As the mother of one of the forwards who "couldn't score" I was aghast at the insensitivity of Bob's comment.
Best to keep your critiquing to yourself. No one likes to hear the "know-it-all" parent providing a play-by-play commentary on the game loud enough for everyone in the stands to hear. It's usually parents like these who, if they could hear themselves make remarks like, "The guard opened a huge hole for the running back. Why didn't he get the first down? We need to try someone else at halfback!" would ask, "Why the heck did I say that?" If your child has been the target of insensitive comments like these, you know how important it is to keep your criticisms to yourself.
Don't Put Your Child On A Pedestal
In lamenting the lack of good forwards, Bob lost sight of why the other parents were at the game. He put his son on a pedestal, and, by bragging about his son's athletic prowess, made the other parents feel small. The players knew his son was a strong player. So did the parents. But Bob did not need to insult us or put our children down. If your child overhears you putting her on a pedestal and singing her praises in front of others she may become afraid to let you down. It's easier for your child not to have you see her do poorly in a game than to be embarrassed in front of all the people that you brag to. Even if she does well, she is being put under undue - and unnecessary - pressure to perform. When that happens, she isn't having fun. When she isn't having fun, she is more likely to quit.
Besides, children develop at different rates. One day, the shoe might soon be on the other foot. Bob's son might reach a plateau in his athletic development and see other players catch up or even surpass him in ability. Kids need to support each other and play as a team. Parents need to do the same.
Think About How You Are Viewed By Others
How do you think your sideline behavior is perceived by other parents, coaches and players? Imagine what a video playback of your behavior would look like. Would you see yourself helping to clean the sidelines after a game or tossing a coffee cup on the ground in disgust after the opposing team has just scored its seventh goal? Would you hear yourself leading a positive cheer, hands clapping with a smile, or see yourself booing and making an obscene gesture at the referee? Would you see yourself smoking near the player's bench or handing out oranges to players at halftime?
Your child - and all the other players, for that matter - will have the best experience if she knows that you are on the sidelines supporting her and her team and that you have put the interests of the kids first and left your ego and personal agenda at home. Children learn self-control by watching you display self-control. Like a coach who remains calm and under control in tough situations, exhibiting good sideline behavior provides young athletes with an appropriate role model for handling the emotional ups and downs of competition.
Actions speak louder than words. Your efforts to teach self-control will be undermined if your child sees you losing your cool on the sideline and yelling at the officials.