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Crazy sports parents. How do you deal with them?

I've heard of everything from parents screaming obscenities at players on the opposing team, their own team, or even their own kids, to actual fights breaking out between parents.

Comments like "my 4 year old could do better!" or "don't sub him in; he's terrible!" seem to be becoming more common coming from the stands during youth sport events. Verbal, or even physical, abuse, aimed at the referees and coaches seems to be even more common?

If your child is playing in a team event, and some other kids' parents start criticising their play, how do you respond? What do you say to your kid? What, if anything, do you say to the offending parent?

What about if the abuse is aimed at another kid, or even a coach or referee?

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"seem to be becoming more common" - I'm not certain about the trend, I seem to remember reading pretty much identical laments 20 years ago. OTOH, at this time, the ME-ME-ME generation is starting to have kids, so may be you're right. –  user3143 May 20 at 0:25
    
Sorry, I'm VTCing as "Too broad". There are at least 3 distinct questions in here with 3 distinct answers (as I discovered when I tried to write up an answer) –  user3143 May 20 at 0:47
    
Fair enough. I'm curious if others in the community agree. I see the question as really being "how do you mitigate the negatives for your kid", with the questions you're referring to as more examples to highlight specific aspects for consideration, but maybe I didn't present it very well. –  Beofett May 20 at 0:58
    
You may want to emphacise that as the main question then (both the title and other multiple question sentences seem more precedented). –  user3143 May 20 at 0:59
    
Maybe I'm a bit jaded, but I assume any question about one's kid is implicitly primarily about "how do I best mitigate the negatives/maximize the positive side for my child" –  Beofett May 20 at 1:14

2 Answers 2

I have seen this twice, and did my best to get them banned from all future games. Once, successfully.

There is no place in children's sports for an adult who can't control themselves in an appropriate manner. If they remain, the kids will get a very bad example, so if necessary, club together with some other parents to ensure the offending parent is removed.

This may mean having to stay outside the venue entirely, or in some cases, their child's attendance may be dependent on the parent's behaviour. Seems harsh, but this latter method might work better, as the parent may try and behave so their child gets to stay.

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Comments like "my 4 year old could do better!" or "don't sub him in; he's terrible!" seem to be becoming more common coming from the stands during youth sport events.

If your child is playing in a team event, and some other kids' parents start criticizing their play, how do you respond?

This is tricky. On one hand, this is not pro sports. On the other, it IS sports. My own judgement would depend heavily on circumstances:

  • If this is an activity that the kids' parents paid for the kid to participate in, the kid has a right to participate, no matter skill level. If that's the case - point that out EXACTLY as is: "that kid has a place and a right as does anyone else who paid for the activity".

  • OTOH, if this is an amateur team that anyone gets to play in for free, you may object to the form, but to be honest I would say you'd be wrong to object to the spirit of the comment. In a sports team, the better players should get bigger chances. Furthermore, IMHO, showing the kids that they get to participate at the cost of edging out better players teaches them WAY wrong things in life ("I deserve this" instead of "I earn this").

Verbal, or even physical, abuse, aimed at the referees and coaches seems to be even more common?

That's simple. First offense, fore real abuse, you threaten to call the cops. Second offense, call the cops. Record on video to have proof. Ideally, rope in a couple of friendly adults to make sure the bully won't attack you for standing up (see also @Rory's answer re: "club together with other parents")

Also, every sports activity usually has a set of rules. Make sure to find them, verify if what those parents do is against the rules. If it isn't, work with the activity organizer to fix the rules. If it is in the rules, inform the offender.

What do you say to your kid?

This answer assumes the situation of simply stating "your kid sucks" and not actual abuse.

First, reassure your child that YOUR opinion of them doesn't hinge on their skill at sport.

Second, give them an honest assessment of their skill level.

Third, teach them that stuff like this ALWAYS happens in life, and they have only 2 good choices: ignore someone else's opinion - especially someone whose opinion really doesn't matter - AND/OR, win over the naysayer by training harder and getting GOOD.

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+1 every child sports organization has a code of conduct nowadays - report violations to the league. –  mxyzplk May 20 at 3:35

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