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Pediatrics Academy Offers Sportsmanship Pointers for Youth-Sports Parents

Though good sportsmanship should be one of the positive tenets of youth sports, parents sometimes let their emotions get the best of them while watching their children compete. On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a handful of recommendations to rein in those unruly spectators.

"It is expected for parents to be excited and vocally encouraging of their young athletes," said Dr. Paul Stricker, a youth-sports medicine specialist in San Diego, in a statement. "But when [parents'] behavior becomes irritating, uncomfortable, interfering and demeaning—that's crossing the line."

Stricker and the pediatrics academy thus issued the following recommendations for parents of youth-athletes:

  • Observe what your child does well at his/her sports events.
  • Don't admonish referees or opposing players for bad calls.
  • Don't berate a coach publicly.
  • Make sure that your child "feels value and love that is not based on sports performance."

You don't have to look far for examples of parents not following these seemingly obvious recommendations. In the winter of 2012, a father of an ice hockey player in Winthrop, Mass., was charged with disturbing the peace for allegedly shining a laser pointer in the eyes of an opposing goalie. Last December, an HBO documentary tackled the issue of over-parenting in youth sports, as my colleague Karla Scoon Reid covered on the Parents and the Public blog.

Earlier this year, the National Alliance for Youth Sports launched an initiative called the "Sports Parents Pledge," which sought to restore positive sportsmanship among youth-sports parents. Those who signed up for the initiative received a free six-part weekly email series with resources and tips about making a positive impact in youth sports, such as instructing parents to "separate [themselves] from [their] child's failure so that [they] can use it as an opportunity to teach them about the value of perseverance."

Jay Atkinson, who runs the Methuen Fun Hockey League "Skate & Read" program in Methuen, Mass., wrote in a Boston Globe Magazine piece earlier this year that "adults must set their egos aside and remember to let the kids have fun." These tips from the pediatrics academy aim to help parents do exactly that.

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