While in the moment, this might seem like the best thing to yell from the sidelines at your son or daughter as they compete in spring soccer on a cold, damp Saturday morning. Everyone wants their child or team to succeed. I happen to think there are many other more appropriate ways to motivate your child to perform at the best of his or her ability.
My 6-year-old daughter is running track for a second season and her twin brother couldn't decide between soccer and baseball so he will be doing both. I've agreed to coach baseball and was recently trained to be a certified soccer referee.
We've all heard the sideline comments. We've heard the overzealous coach, parent or grandparent barking at one of the kids on the team to "shoot now!" or "run faster!" I'm also guilty at times of a few like "Get that rebound!" Sometimes we need to be loud to overcome the other noise at athletic events when encouraging our children. However, some of us need to make different decisions about what we say, when we say it and how often we yell. I asked my son after a winter basketball game as he walked out of the gym in shorts into 10 degree weather if he heard anything that anybody said when they yelled from the bleachers in the noisy gym. He said, "Nope, not anything."
After that, I changed my approach. I waited until a break in the game and had time to say one thing to him directly that he did great.
I see kids who are overweight or obese almost every day in my pediatric practice. I want them to be out running around and having fun while they are doing it. I want those who do not have a weight problem to be preventing one by participating in organized sports. What I don't want is a child - any child, regardless of body type or skill level - to feel shameful of their performance during a sporting event.
We cannot be innocent bystanders anymore. If you see (or more likely hear) a parent or a coach overstepping their bounds, say something to them. I'm not talking about the mom who is yelling "go, go, go!" as her daughter streaks down the sideline ready to center the soccer ball to an awaiting teammate. I'm talking about the comments like "Get over there and guard that kid!" or "What is wrong with you out there!" This goes for parent-coach interactions and those with the referees.
Kids are motivated appropriately by praise and the joy of playing with teammates. Yes, they also want to win but really, we need to decide if that is their true goal or ours as parents and coaches. I'll have it easier coaching elementary aged students where the competition isn't as fierce as the older kids, but I'll be thinking about this as I work with my rising baseball stars.
My suggestion is that if you hear someone making inappropriate comments that you address it with the team's coach first and expect the coach to interact with the parent if necessary. If it is the coach who is the offender, approach other parents to see if your concerns are valid and ask others to have a conversation with the coach with two of the parents.
What have you heard on the sidelines? What have you done about it? What is your suggestion to others on how to handle the situation?