Fessing Up on Less-Than-Perfect Sideline Behavior

The Sporting Dad admits to a few instances over the course of 15 years.


Google gives 74,900,000 results when the phrase "youth sports parents" is entered. You can narrow it down to 18,600,000 by adding "violence"; 5,180,000 if you replace "violence" with "fighting"; 3,090,000 by swapping "fighting" for "out of control"; 2,870,000 for trading your lack of control for "guns"; 2,720,000 means ditching the "gun" but adding "pressure."

Although not particularly scientific, it does indicate that a whole lot of people realize that we have some serious issues here in Youth Sports Land. Almost as scary are the people I’m finding who are in complete denial.

With so much focus, and so much attention on these problems, why haven’t we solved them? Some are all too common. We’ve all seen them. Yet the stories seem to get more bizarre by the week.

We hand out manuals to coaches and pledges to parents. But as parents and coaches — as adults — it’s crucial to everything else going on around us that we act appropriately.

OK, so now I have to confess. I haven’t always been the perfect little parent spectator that I should have been. So I’ll share the few instances where I did not act properly and then we can discuss how I should have handled them later in the comments.

My Bad #1: The Boy (10 years old at the time) is scheduled to pitch from a portable mound. During practice it sinks as he pushes off the rubber (he was the size of most-12-year olds). The opposing coach agrees to let him pitch without it. When the umpire arrives (also a league official), he demands the mound be put back. I argue. He argues back. Oh, our voices get kind of loud too.

My Bad #2: A football game. I feel as though the opposing team is running up the score on my son’s team (I’m a spectator and not coaching). At the time, I am on the league’s board as are the two opposing coaches. We all know the rules that are in place. I yell across the field, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? YOU ARE STILL PASSING THE BALL?” One of them yells, “OH, DON’T LISTEN TO HIM!”

My Bad #3: A playoff baseball game. I am coaching first base. Lightning is flashing in the distance. A week earlier I had researched and finished the “Lightning Rules” for our youth football league. Much of it is taken from Little League Baseball’s website. So why are we still playing? I get a little loud. OK, I whipped the parents into a frenzy and led a chorus of chants directed at the umpire. I know, I know, I should have sent the kids home at the first sound of thunder or flicker of lightning. But the umps control the game.

Incidentally, this past year I was at a high school football game where lightning could be seen in the distance and the refs allowed the game to continue until it was directly above us. For the record, I kept quiet even as all the voices inside of my head were telling me to jump the fence and talk to the officials. Months later I ran into the head official and asked why the game continued. He said they did not see the lightning. So should I have said something at the game?

How many is “a few”?

My Bad #4: The Boy is riding the bench way too much for a 12-year-old (at the time). He’s not the only one. Classic scenario of Coach’s buddy’s kids playing more. While I don’t use specific names, I go on Facebook and voice my displeasure after the last game of the season. Oh and I also note the number of innings he’s played and how many fewer times he’s batted compared to the others. I’d forgotten that Coach was a Facebook friend.

Remember, these are stretched out over 15 years.

My Bad #5: Baseball again. I’m a spectator. Out-of-town team is ripping us apart. It’s late in the game and their first base coach is still having his kids steal and take extra bases. I ask him if it’s really necessary to rub it in. He’s now in my face. Using potty language, he tells me to mind my own business. I say (so only he can hear), “It is my business, and you, sir, are a poor example of a coach.” More potty language from him as I walk away.

So there they are. All of them could have been handled better by both sides. Any one of them could have had an explosive outcome. None of them did.

The only way I can think of helping to cut back some of this craziness is by talking, writing, showing and using personal examples. The Boy will be playing high school sports next year and I will strive to be the perfect sideline parent.

Something will inevitably trigger some of those same emotions, but I’ll think of My Bad Numbers 1-5. I have to. We all do if anything is going to change. Just ask Google.

Ron Goralski March 23, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Phew! It's been 30 mins and I haven't been called any names yet :)
Darrell Lucas March 23, 2012 at 01:51 PM
#6 Well if you didn't call your readers 'big boys, bush league, and complete idiots' then you wouldn't have that problem. :-) YAY Ron you can be a nice guy!!
Ron Goralski March 23, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Only you my friend :). And I am a very nice guy. Just very passionate about making youth sports about the children and not the agenda of the adults.
John Q. Public March 23, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Well, let me start the name calling: Ron, the problem is you are human! When it comes to our kids we are not objective or dispassionate. You can strive to be the perfect parent/spectator/coach but sooner or later your emotions will run away with you and you will do something you wish you hadn't. The question is what do you do after you have your bad moment, and as a corollary, what is your reaction when someone else has a bad moment directed at you or in your presence. We need to learn from our mistakes, but we also need to forgive ourselves as well as forgiving others when they have a lapse. I don't mean to suggest that we ignore the problems, but rather we need to keep it in perspective. We must recognize that the vast majority of the adults in youth sports are good people doing the best that they can. I am often surprised that so many people seem to feel that the whole youth sports experience is a negative one, filled with dumb, corrupt and/or incompetent coaches and officials, and obnoxious parents. I have three kids who were always involved in one sport or another and I coached for many years and my experiences were overwhelmingly positive. There were a few significant problems along the way, but my kids got tremendous benefits from youth sports. I just had to learn to accept that for some reason none of the coaches seemed to recognize the superior talent that I, a perfectly objective parent, saw in each of my children.


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