To All Sports Parents. Do Not Be “That Parent.”

To All Sports Parents. Do Not Be “That Parent.”

I have played, coached or watched athletics my entire life. In all these contexts, I have witnessed athletic events that range from recreation programs to advanced/elite athletic programs, and no matter what, I will see/hear/encounter “that parent” during approximately 20% of these competitions.

“That parent” appears in many domains where his or her child can be found. Academic, social, and athletic are the biggies. Here I’d like to focus on the sports parent. In my experience, most of the time “that parent” is a dad or mom who is well intended but has no clue that he or she is “that parent.” If I’m honest, sometimes I may have been “that parent” in the past and it certainly hasn’t been in my finer moments.

Being “that parent” is a problem because for you, your child’s participation in the game is as much about you as about your child. You may care about the outcome more than your child does, and you often take your child’s success or failure personally. You provide an additional level of stress to your child, the coach, and the team, and you likely bother the people around you. This doesn’t make you a bad person. You desperately love your child, and you’re probably a good parent. However, your anxiety may be a little too high and to cope, you may find yourself doing some of these things on this list.

If you find yourself doing these things, you might be “that parent.”

  • If you use anything to amplify your voice during a game when only 20 people are watching, you might be “that parent.” It could be your hand, a paper cup, or a megaphone.
  • If you call out the name of your child to get his/her attention (and you are not the coach) during the game, you might be “that parent.”
  • If you talk about other student athletes in unfavorable light, you might be “that parent.”
  • If you have a camera and use it every game even though 99 percent of the shots you take look exactly the same, you might be “that parent.”
  • If you step in front of others, or worse, in the field of play to take your pictures (because you are frustrated that all your pictures look the same) with the camera that you bring to every game, you might be “that parent.”
  • If you are convinced that your team is getting screwed and that the referee or umpire is “terrible” in more than 50 percent of the games your child plays in, you might be “that parent.”
  • If you promise to buy your kid ice cream or give them $100 for doing something great in the field or on the court, you might be “that parent.” (I actually remember doing this when my daughter was playing on her first soccer team at the age of five! For every time she kicked the ball, I would give her candy. I think I doled out six pieces that year.)
  • If you are telling your 9-year-old he or she must choose a sport to “specialize” in, you might be “that parent.”
  • If you think elite and upper-level coaches care about any of the accomplishments your child has accrued during his or her athletic career, you might be “that parent.” Believe me, the only things upper level/elite coaches are concerned about are solid fundamentals, work ethic, being coachable, and raw talent. That’s it. There is no need to bring up past awesomeness. It’s almost the same as bringing up that time you scored 20 in high school.
  • If you are unable to keep your mouth shut and not correct something about your child’s performance on the way home from a big loss from which they are reeling, you might be “that parent.”
  • If you are more upset, angry, and outraged after a tough loss than your child who played in and lost the game, you might be “that parent.”
  • If people create a swath of space for you because you’re pacing all the time and mumbling under your breath, you might be “that parent.”
  • If an umpire or referee has ever stopped the game and asked you to be quiet and threatened to kick you out of the event, you actually are “that parent.” Or at least you were at that particular moment.
  • If you frequently call the coach and ask, “Why isn’t my son/daughter playing more?!?” instead of encouraging your child to self-advocate and go to the coach to ask, “What parts of my game do I need to work on to get more playing time?” you may be “that parent.”
  • If you ever start a sentence to your child athlete with “Do you know how much money I have spent for ______?!?” you may be “that parent.” (I’m guilty of this one too.)
  • And finally, if you find people looking at you like this, you may be “that parent.”



I know I’ve missed some. What are some other indicators of “that parent”? Please add them in the comment section below. I’d love to learn more.

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