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Should You Penalize Players for Their Bad Parent?

Children Running with Moms Cheering

We can all agree that the cause of most strife in youth sports comes from parents. At times, some parents argue with the coaches and officials, don’t get their kids to practice on time, bad mouth the opponents and more.

These “bad behaviors” can really drag down a team and, if they aren’t stopped, ruin the whole season. But how is a coach supposed to control other adults?mas

It’s not as if they can bench a parent the same way they’d bench a player for missing practices, right?

Robert Ramsay, a soccer coach at CCV STARS in Peoria, Arizona, has a pretty strict policy regarding parents’ behaviors and how it effects his players.

Over the years I have a strategy I use with parents and it’s never failed me. I hold a parent meeting at the beginning of the season and explain my “policy” to them. (Parents that don’t attend are told their child will not play until they meet and discuss this with me.) 

My policy: Parents cheer positively from the sideline. Absolutely no coaching, cussing, or engaging referees from the sideline. 

If I hear it, I text my team manager on the sideline and he tells the parent to shut up. (The manager reiterates this is from me, the coach, emphasizing my displeasure and deflecting any heat away from the manager.) 

Second time I hear it, their child gets pulled out. This child goes to her parent and tells them she isn’t playing because of her parent’s mouth. Child does not go back in until parent acknowledges mistake and promises to shut up. 

If it happens again, this game or next, child is suspended indefinitely, Period. This parent will have to find a way to make me believe they can hold up their end before their child plays again. 

I make it clear in the beginning, if I have to enforce the policy, the parent is the one punishing the child, not me. I don’t engage parents in long drawn out talks or arguments. I tell them what I want and ask them to either agree or leave the team. No discussion over discipline or behavior should take more than 2 minutes. I speak my points, ask for cooperation, then walk away. No arguing, cussing, yelling, “comparing notes”. 

Usually, it only takes one incident and all of the rest of the parents fall in line. It’s amazing how much spirit there is in a kid not playing or an embarrassed spouse on the sideline.

I feel bad for the expelled child, but the needs of the team outweigh the needs of bad parents. Coaches have rights and obligations, stand up for yourselves.

What do you think of Robert’s approach? While it may seem harsh it does sound like he’s had amazing success and penalizing the player almost always makes the parent adjust their behavior. After all, what parent wants to watch their child sit on the bench because of what they did.

On the other hand, could a coach take this approach and run way too far with it? Would parents be too afraid to say anything to the coach (even if they have a legitimate concern) out of fear that their child would be benched?

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Sportsmanship Parent SportsEngine