Sports Parents Loving Their Kids Too Loudly

Jan 11, 2017

For many parents, weekends mean spending time watching their children play sports. Commentator John Galvin faithfully attends his kids’ games. And he loves watching the kids play. But watching – and listening – to certain people on the sidelines is another story altogether.

If there’s one thing that makes me lament this coming weekend, it will be having to listen to loud-mouthed, micro-managing sports parents. Dads and moms.

If you have children or grandchildren of a certain age, you know what I’m talking about. These full-throated powerful few are at every game. And they wreck it for the rest of us.

At my 10-year-old’s soccer games, these parents huddle, draw power from one another and go collectively insane, shouting orders to their own children, and all the other children too .

"Cross it! Jayden!"

"Pressure the ball, Johnny!"

"C’mon guys, you need to want it!"

During games (and I’ve got three a weekend to attend), I stand as far away as possible from this crowd. But I still hear every yell.

And the kids do, too. Recently, I undertook an unscientific sampling. It was of my 12-year-old son’s soccer-practice carpool. Maybe I had it wrong. Maybe kids actually like it when their moms are completely flipping out in the stands.

"Hey, just curious, how do you guys feel about parents yelling on the sideline?"

Kids hate it when parents are out of control at games. They don't want us to scream out their name in exasperation, call out other players, question the ref or even worse, the coach. They like to be cheered on. That's about it.

At first, there was silence. But soon they opened up.

Kids hate it when parents are out of control at games. They don’t want us to scream out their name in exasperation, call out other players, question the ref or even worse — the coach. They like to be cheered on. That’s about it.

And don’t think for a moment they don’t snicker at the out-of-shape parents, who yell at the kids to ‘hustle’.

Here’s another downside. Show me an overly engaged sports parent and I’ll show you an offspring who plays too rough, complains about the ref and is a sore loser.

That kids want their parents to relax should hardly be news. Forget my survey, there’s bona fide academic research that has found the same thing. So why can’t these parents help themselves?

I get it. These kids are extensions of us. We love them. We want them to try hard, to do us proud. But if you’re out of control, you’re ruining it. For everybody. So please, I beg you, for the kids (Forget the kids! For me.) — give it a rest.

John Galvin is a communications consultant and some-time journalist. His kids play organized sports in Northampton, where he and his family live.