To create the best possible environment for youth sports requires cooperation and coordination between parents, coaches, and game officials that can only be achieved through education.
Fundamental to improving the youth sport atmosphere is educating parents. Training can help bring parents more in tune with their reasons for having their child involved in youth sports. Properly trained, parents will commit to following a standard of behavior that will be healthy for their child as well as the other youth participants in the game. Through parent training, a positive healthy atmosphere can be created on the sidelines.
Parent education should have three goals:
- Highlight the values of youth sports
- Educate parents about the specific rules of youth sport
- Obtain the commitment of parents to display only positive behaviors at youth sport contests.
Extensive training is required because:
- Limited training only permits a focus on parents' negative behavior and the setting of minimum standards for parents' conduct.
- More extensive training permits the youth sports organization to actually improve the quality of parent involvement by:
- Teaching parents about the special rules of youth sports
- Allowing them to assess their own behavior on the sidelines, and
- Helping parents learn new skills to deal with the stress that they invariably experience when they attend youth sports contests.
- Mandatory training is required. If a parent wants their child to be part of the sport program, he or she must participate. If participation is required for all parents, they will all have a stake in achieving a positive outcome.
The following should be components of parent training:
- Localize The Problem. It is critically important that parents understand, up front, that the problem is local, not something that only happens in other parts of the state or country. Use personal or newspaper accounts and videotape, if available.
- Set Behavioral Expectations. The behavioral expectations for parents at youth sports contests should be clearly described.
- Teach Specific Coping Skills. Teach parents specific skills to use to help contain and focus their own intensity on the sidelines. Showing parents a videotape presentation to help them improve their behavior on the sidelines can be particularly effective. There are several companies that have developed videotapes, such as Human Kinetics and PAYS [links].
- Explain The Rules. A significant number of the incidents that occur in youth sports are the result of a failure by parents to understand the special rules that apply at a particular level of youth sport.
- Obtain A Pledge Of Good Behavior. Parents should be required to sign a pledge to behave appropriately at each youth sport event. The specific expectations should be clearly spelled out. When the parent signs, it means the league has the right to hold the parent accountable for violations. The parent can choose not to sign, but, as a consequence, his or her child will not be allowed to play in the league.