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Nazarene Athletics

Parents: Six Guidelines for the Sidelines

Sport Spectrum – Winter 2010


Are you living vicariously through your child, or do you struggle with your temper during games?

If so, we offer six ways, based on scripture, how you and others can maintain the right perspective.

It was the championship game. The bases were loaded, and a relief pitcher had just been summoned to the mound in an attempt to preserve a precarious lead. After a few warm-up tosses, he nodded at the catcher, wound up and let his first pitch fly.

The ball never reached the catcher’s mitt. It was intercepted by a metal bat and launched powerfully in the opposite direction. It came to rest somewhere outside the stadium wall. Except for a few muscles in his neck, the centerfielder never even moved as he watched the ball soar over his head. It was a grand slam if I ever saw one.Half the stadium erupted in cheers.

The other half groaned. Suddenly a disgruntled dad erupted. He jumped to his feet and began yelling at the top of his lungs, ridiculing the relief pitcher and his coach with adjectives unfit for even the raunchiest rap song.

I was shocked! What caused this man to suddenly become so obnoxious? How could he be so callous and mean? Was he too self-absorbed to understand that the pitcher was only a kid trying to do his very best, and that the coach was every bit as committed to winning the game as he was? Was he too immature to realize how offensive and inappropriate his outburst was? Was he too blind to realize that the pitcher’s mom was seated behind him?

What had been a contest of skill and athleticism was no longer focused on the young men on the playing field-it was all about the loud obnoxious man in the stands whose dreams and desires had just disintegrated. He had abruptly become the center of attention.

Unfortunately, this has become all too familiar at youth sporting events these days. And it certainly isn’t just the dads who are to blame! Moms are often just as bad.

Too many parents are vicariously reliving unfulfilled sports careers or nurturing fantasies of a tuition-free college education. They don’t want their children merely to participate in a sport, they want them to play on the “best” teams, become the biggest stars, and stomp out all their opponents in no uncertain terms. They can’t relax and allow the true benefits of youth sports to blossom in their children’s lives. In such a competitive environment, even the best-intentioned parents can get carried away.

God has more in mind for us to do on the sidelines than to holler at the officials or discuss the coach’s IQ, or pressure our children to play harder. Here are some guidelines for us to consider as we cheer for our children from the sidelines.

Here are some guidelines for us to consider as we cheer for our children from the sidelines

Remember the real reasons you are there. Your kids should be participating in a sports program because it offers a sports program because it offers a safe place to grow and develop; it teaches them self-discipline, good sportsmanship and teamwork; it promotes good health; and it produces fun. All of these can be accomplished whether or not their team is perennially declared the victor. Your role as a parent is to ensure the achievement of these goals.

2 Corinthians 5:20: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”

Restrain yourself from being overly concerned with the outcome. Too many parents are more interested in the statistical outcome of an event than the emotional, social and spiritual lessons that can be learned from the experience. They focus more on scoreboards and rankings than on learning and growing. They fail to realize that often more is learned in losing than can be gained by winning. Research shows that 75 percent of kids participating in youth sports drop out by the time they turn 14. This is a startling number. And the reasons given have to do with the pressure that is placed on winning. The games are so competitive that the kids are no longer having fun. In their words, “The adults take it too seriously.” Winning should never be more important than a child’s happiness and development.

Ecclesiastes 11:9; “Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.”

Resist coaching from the sidelines. A running critique of your child’s play will not only distract them, it is likely to embarrass them. Your child should be listening and looking to his coach for instructions. Your additional contributions only lead to confusion. In addition, pacing the sidelines while barking instructions is often an unwitting attempt at showcasing personal expertise. It takes the focus of the game off the kids and puts it on you. Sure, you might notice things that the coach hasn’t noticed (or more likely has chosen to ignore), but it’s not your job to let everyone in the stadium in on his oversights. Hey, if you really want to coach, you should buy yourself a whistle and sign up at the beginning of the season.

1 Peter 2:13: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake To every authority instituted among men.”

Refuse to take part in toxic behavior.
 Although dads are more likely to assume the role of sideline stalkers, moms often participate in a sideline activity that is equally as disruptive and can be even more destructive. It is sometimes known as “goal line grumbling.” Negative comments spread rapidly like a virus and can affect the whole team. They are hurtful to the players and harmful to team unity. They cause dissention and distrust. One of the quickest ways to negate any ministry opportunities is to talk badly about the coaches and other players or their family members. When trapped in a folding chair between two gossiping parents, it is important to try to turn the conversation in a positive direction. Kindly suggesting that parents make use of league procedures that are already in place for legitimate concerns may put an end to insidious gossip. If not, you may need to quietly fold your chair, and join a different group of parents.

Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

1 Peter 4:11: “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.”

Remain positive despite the outcome. Even if the scorecard indicates a loss, the outcome can be successful when we focus on what is important. We should ask our children questions like: did you do your best? Were you a good teammate? Did you have fun? Pointing our areas of skill that need improvement on the way home only makes a child feel unsuccessful. It immediately erases any enjoyment that should accompany the experience of participation. Your child is much more interested in getting home so he can ride his bike than he is in discussing his failed bunt attempt.

Proverbs 16:21: “Pleasant words promote instruction.”

Respect and honor others. This includes the coaches, the referees, and the other players (even those on the other team), as well as your own children. Outbursts from parents on the sidelines only teach kids to disrespect and demean others. Finger pointing tells them it is all right to look for someone to blame when things don’t go their way. Be sure to thank the coaches and the officials after each game. Also, look for ways to encourage other children. Your input may be the only positive reinforcement some children ever receive.1 Peter 2:17: “Show proper respect to everyone." 

1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Encourage one another and build each other up.”

Our behavior on the sideline can open huge doors for ministry and can be pivotal in determining the quality of our children’s experiences on the playing field of life. It also can result in smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts-or it can lead to unhappiness and heartache. We need to be our children’s best fans in every way!

Sport Spectrum – Winter 2010