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The Right Way to Cheer for Your Kids

Updated: Sep 9, 2019

Face it, parents are annoying. Here's how to not be the parent that everyone avoids on the sidelines.


Parents watching kids playing soccer

We want our kids to be successful, and we want to cheer for them along the way to help encourage their success. There is no place where this is more clear than at sporting events. There are a lot of articles that provide recommendations on what to say to your child after the game, but the guide for cheering during the game is remarkably simple.


The key to being a good parent fan on the sidelines is to cheer for the sport. If you approach the competition as though you are a fan of the sport in general instead of being a fan of only your child or your child’s team, all inter-parent communication issues can be averted, your child will appreciate your role, and you will enjoy the game. It’s a win-win for all, and it’s easy to do after a little practice.


Other Parents’ Enjoyment of the Game

If you’ve been around youth athletics, you can probably recognize the different subsets of parents that are present at almost every game.


There’s the Aggressor: a mom or dad who seems angry about everything. They are mad at the officials, at the other team, at the kids on the field, at their own kids sitting on the sidelines, at everyone. It’s best to create a safe distance between you and the Aggressor.


There’s the Talker: a mom or dad who attends every game, but has probably not seen more than 5 minutes of any game because they latch on to unsuspecting parents and use the game as a socializing opportunity. You may recognize their kid as well because they may be signed up to play only to allow their parent the chance to have a place to talk with other adults.


There’s the My-Kid-Is-Perfect-And-If-Something-Goes-Wrong-It-Must-Be-Somebody-Else’s-Fault: a mom or dad whose title says it all.


There’s the Isolationist: a mom or dad who stations themselves away from the rest of the crowd. The Isolationist can be found at the corners of the field or in the nosebleed seats.


There’s the Normal Parent: these are the elusive ones. The Normal Parent is able to balance passion for the game with an appropriate level of social interaction and self-realization of their own child’s role with the team. This is the parent that can handle interactions with all of the other parents and is generally the one that other parents, if given the choice, would choose to be around. You should want to be this parent. You can be this parent.


Again, the key to being a good parent fan on the sidelines is to cheer for the sport. If you approach the competition as though you are a fan of the sport in general instead of being a fan of only your child or your child’s team, all inter-parent communication issues can be averted. Be a good parent fan.


Your Child’s Enjoyment of the Game

As a coach, one of the saddest things that I hear my players regularly saying on the sidelines is that they don’t like being on the parents’ side of the field. It’s heartbreaking to think that there are kids who would actually prefer for their parents to not come to the games to watch them. Hopefully parents enjoy watching the games, but if attendance is purely for personal satisfaction, then the point of being there to support your child can be completely lost.


Parents like The Aggressor or the My-Kid-Is-Perfect-And-If-Something-Goes-Wrong-It-Must-Be-Somebody-Else’s-Fault may feel as though they are able to support their kids via their actions, but the support we provide needs to toe the careful lines between encouragement and embarrassment and between character-building and coddling.


Again, the key to being a good parent fan on the sidelines is to cheer for the sport. If you approach the competition as though you are a fan of the sport in general instead of being a fan of only your child or your child’s team, your child will appreciate your role. Be a good parent fan.


Your Own Enjoyment of the Game

Parenting should be fun. Watching your kids compete should be fun. Whenever parenting feels more like a chore than a privilege, it’s important to re-frame our perspective.


There comes a point in almost every parent’s life when they come to the realization that their child is not going to become a professional athlete. For some parents, the reality becomes obvious already when their kid heads to preschool, for others it happens years or even decades later. The sooner that one can accept the likelihood that their child is not the next superstar, the sooner that sporting events can be enjoyed as recreation instead of being stressed over as die-hard competitions.


I am not saying that competition is bad. Competition is what makes sports fun to watch, but only if we can adequately divest from the result of the competition being the metric by which we evaluate the event. In general, youth sports are more fun when the team you want to win is winning, but if sports are only fun for you when the team you want to win is winning, then your child is going to stop enjoying (and thus playing) the game at some point. The push to win should not overpower the enjoyment of playing.


Again, the key to being a good parent fan on the sidelines is to cheer for the sport. If you approach the competition as though you are a fan of the sport in general instead of being a fan of only your child or your child’s team, you will enjoy the game.


Don't be 'that' parent. Be a good parent fan.

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