How to Be a Good Sports Parent

Good sports parent - dad and son celebrating at baseball game

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Being a good sports parent is like being a good school parent. To make sure your kids get the most out of their participation, you need to participate too. Being involved, in a positive way, means you provide encouragement, support, and practical help.

If possible, volunteer and back up the coach's decisions and lessons, and help create an environment where your kid can succeed. Then you step back and let them do the hard work. In short, you're a team player no matter the sport.

Show Support

Your child can't play a sport without your active support—that means financial, logistical, and emotional. Having kids involved in youth sports can really tax your family's schedule along with your wallet, so this situation is a tough one.

There's no need to hide the truth from them—that this is hard sometimes—especially if your kids are old enough to understand the trade-offs involved. But it's also important to reassure your child that you support their efforts and are proud of them, even if you don't enjoy waking up at 5 a.m. to drive them to practice. 

Being supportive doesn't have to mean you watch every practice, especially those early morning ones! It also doesn't even mean attending every game or meet.

Being there for everything is often impossible, especially if you have more than one child. Knowing that you care and support them is what truly matters to your child.

Make time to watch your child compete whenever you can. And remember, being fully present also means keeping your phone in your pocket or purse.

Providing strong emotional support can even protect your child from burnout if it's done right. In fact, research shows that kids are more likely to have a positive experience when parents are involved in their sports activities.

The goal is to make sure your child knows you love them no matter what—not pressure them to perform to please you. This concept sounds obvious but isn't always easy to do.

Some kids need you to really spell things out for them: "I'm so proud of you even when you fall. I love to watch you play." Other kids give and receive love in other ways. You'll know what works best for your child.

Be Informed and Be Real

When you are knowledgeable about the game your child loves, you can follow the action and provide more meaningful help. You might even enjoy your time in the bleachers more!

Read up on the sport and talk to veteran parents. They can help you with game basics, equipment questions, team and coaching options, and more. It's also important to know the rules of the team, league, gym, and so on. Then make sure your child follows them. There's almost nothing worse than parents who think the rules don't apply to their child.

Good sports parents also are clear-eyed about what their child can do through sports.

Not every youth sports athlete can go pro, win a college scholarship, or be the best on the team. Being positive doesn't have to mean being unrealistic. Expectations that go way overboard can put undue pressure on your kid.

Know that they'll still gain a great deal from their participation. Even if they don't take home a trophy every time or score the most points, they will learn valuable lessons—sometimes more important lessons than winning or being the best could ever teach them.

Provide Helpful Feedback

You'll boost your child's self-esteem and help them master new skills when you can give good advice. The most productive feedback is both detailed and positive. Try statements like:

  • "You really hustled after the ball today."
  • "That was a great pass to Will in the third quarter."
  • "I noticed how you really tried to keep your legs straight just like your coach suggested." 

However, sometimes it's best not to offer these comments immediately after a game. Not every player enjoys reviewing their performance right away, especially if they were on the losing side. Yet, it's often helpful for your athlete to have a sounding board so they can discuss events when they're ready. This could mean talking later that evening or in the next few days.

Follow your child's lead. Listening between the lines may help you identify problems that you could try to help with, such as anxiety, bullying, or even an undiagnosed injury.

When things do go wrong, whether it's bad luck, a bad call, or just plain old bad play, your role is to not only help your child deal with the disappointment—but also learn from it.

Empathy, along with helping your child find and make a positive change, builds resilience. And that's a skill your child can use on and off the playing field, for many years to come.

Be a Role Model

Your young athletes need to keep their bodies in good shape to perform well and reduce the risk of injury. Through words and deeds, you can help them achieve these goals. Serve healthy foods to your family and remind your kids of the importance of good nutrition. You can even provide healthy snacks for the team.

Exercise regularly and talk about how it makes you feel stronger and more energetic. You might even work out together, help them practice drills, or have them teach you some of what they have learned about their chosen sports.

Research indicates that parents' exercise patterns have a significant impact on their children. In fact, physically active parents tend to have physically active children.

You also can be a role model to other parents. You know the crazy sports parents we hear so much about? As a good sports parent, you can help promote sportsmanship from the sidelines and in the stands.

Be respectful of your child. Respect their teammates, coach, opponents, the officials, and the game itself, including its rules and traditions. You can even help lead the conversations that might help us fix youth sports and make it better for our kids.

A Word From Verywell

Being a good sports parent requires discipline. After all, sporting events evoke a lot of strong emotions, and learning to keep a level head in the midst of those emotions is not an easy task. But if you keep your focus on being a good role model and doing what's best for your child and for the team, you will be successful.

Plus, your child is more likely to have a positive and enriching experience playing sports if you focus on being a good sports parent. Just be sure to refrain from applying too much pressure or setting unrealistic expectations, and both you and your child will find the experience rewarding and a great opportunity to build memories.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Dorsch T, Wright E, Eckard V, Elliott S, Thrower S, Knight C. A history of parent involvement in organized youth sport: A scoping reviewSport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology. 2021. doi:10.1037/spy0000266

  2. Sánchez-Miguel PA, Leo FM, Sánchez-Oliva D, Amado D, García-Calvo T. The importance of parents' behavior in their children's enjoyment and amotivation in sportsJ Hum Kinet. 2013;36:169-177. doi:10.2478/hukin-2013-0017

  3. Mossman GJ, Cronin LD. Life skills development and enjoyment in youth soccer: The importance of parental behaviours. J Sports Sci. 2019 Apr;37(8):850-856. doi:10.1080/02640414.2018.1530580

  4. Danioni F, Barni D, Rosnati R. Transmitting sport values: The importance of parental involvement in children's sport activityEur J Psychol. 2017;13(1):75-92. doi:10.5964/ejop.v13i1.1265

By Catherine Holecko
Catherine Holecko is an experienced freelance writer and editor who specializes in pregnancy, parenting, health and fitness.