Most of us have heard horror stories about parents behaving badly at their children’s sporting events. Dads punching coaches. Moms berating kids on the other team. Parental melees occurring over “bad” calls.
Fortunately, said Ellicottville Central Schools Athletic Director Karl Schwartz, “The culture in Ellicottville is very positive. Parents generally understand that coaches have their child’s best interests in mind. I can only remember one time in my 21 years at the school when a parent had to be escorted from the stands due to bad behavior.”
At the beginning of every new sports season, Schwartz and all coaches hold a meeting for parents and athletes to complete all necessary paperwork and to explain Ellicottville’s rules, regulations and expectations. The meeting — the fall season meeting was held on Aug. 15 — is especially important for families whose children are joining teams for the first time.
“We explain ‘The Ellicottville Way,’” said Schwartz, which can be summed up by the school’s slogan — “Be Loud, Be Proud, Be Positive.” Essentially, this means that “if you’re going to say anything, make it positive.”
“We also talk about how parents and coaches interact,” he said. “Parents need to take care not to undermine the coaches.”
Yelling instructions at kids from the sidelines confuses — even embarrasses — the children, especially the littlest kids who don’t know whom to listen to.
Roger Spell, a volunteer coach at the school for nine years and current chair of the ECS School Board, added, “When kids are on the field or court, they need to be listening only to their coaches, who have a game plan and strategy in mind, not just for the team as a whole, but for each child.”
“Our coaches take an extraordinary amount of time to get to know each and every player,” said Schwartz. Since many coaches also are teachers, they know what each child needs to work on both on and off the field, how they approach learning, and how they want them to interact with their teammates. Of course, parents want to help, but they need to work with, not against, the coaches to ensure their children have the best experience possible, he said.
Sportsmanship Tips for Parents
The following is a list of guidelines for parents of student athletes from KidsHealth.org.
• Unless you’re coaching your child’s team, you need to remember that you’re the parent. Shout words of encouragement, not directions, from the sidelines (there is a difference!).
• Keep your comments positive. Don’t bad-mouth coaches, players or game officials. If you have a serious concern, discuss it privately with the coach or with a league official.
• After a competition, it’s important not to dwell on who won or lost. Instead, try asking, “How did you feel you did during the game?” If your child feels weak at a particular skill, offer to work on it together before the next game.
• Applaud good plays no matter who makes them.
• Set a good example with your courteous behavior toward the parents of kids on the other team. Congratulate them when their kids win.
• Remember that it’s your kids, not you, who are playing. Don’t push them into a sport because it’s what you enjoyed. As kids get older, let them choose what sports they want to play and decide the level of commitment they want to make.
• Keep your perspective. It’s just a game. Even if the team loses every game of the season, it’s unlikely to ruin your child’s life or chances of success.
• Look for examples of good sportsmanship in professional athletes and point them out to your kids. Talk about the bad examples, too, and why they upset you.
• Finally, don’t forget to have fun. Even if your child isn’t the star, enjoy the game while you’re thinking of all the benefits your child is gaining — new skills, new friends and attitudes that can help all through life.