The Ugly Parent in All of Us


I'm sitting there watching a kids' ice hockey game on a TV monitor when the TV host says to me, "So watch this next bit and tell me what you think."

I was being interviewed by a TV station in Tampa, Florida that was doing a series on poor parental behavior at youth sports events.

In the video, a youngster about eight years old was skating down the ice and about to shoot a shot into the opposing team's goal. He missed the shot and all of a sudden a man stands up and yells at the top of his voice, "Aaron, you bum, you can never do anything right!" The man was Aaron's father.

I said to the TV host, "Well, thank goodness that doesn't happen all the time, but I can tell you in my more than 40 years of experience in youth sports that it is the type of behavior you see all too often in kids sports."

But not in other events for kids.

I continued by saying, "Can you imagine going to one of your child's piano recitals and right in the middle of their performance the child hits a bad note and the father stands up and yells, 'What a stupid idiot! We pay a lot of money for your lessons only to hear you screw up!'"

Sports for kids would be a great experience if parents could control their emotions, but that is like asking a person who has never been skiing before to just relax as they look straight down from the top of the mountain. Relaxing just isn't in the cards.

When the sport of soccer was introduced to kids in this country, the parents would drop the kids off and go sit somewhere in the park and chat while the game went on. Nobody knew the rules so, in turn, nobody cared. It was just a game.

Then all of a sudden the parents began to know the rules a little better and instead of chatting somewhere far from the field they began to venture over to sit in the stands. The next thing you know they were, for the most part, standing along the sidelines shouting all kinds of guttural sounds in attempts to tell their kids how to play better.

I'll never forget going to a game and on one side of the field I saw a father throw his son against a fence for making a mistake and a mother running up and down on the other side of the field screaming at her son to "Hustle! Hustle!"

While sports psychologists give all types of reasons for this type of behavior, I have yet to hear one talk about how to prevent it.

One thing we do at the National Alliance for Youth Sports is to show videos of parents' behavior. Nothing is more shocking to the parent who says, "Oh my God. That's me!?"

The next time you happen to see parents behave the way I've described, feel free to send us some footage at When you do, you just might save the next child from some serious embarrassment.