Parents Behaving Badly at Sporting Events!

Posted March 30, 2009 by

Who hasn’t been at a child’s baseball, t-ball or soccer game gleefully cheering on their children, only to witness embarrassing behavior and even vulgar language coming from other fans? I’m always amazed at the messages sent by adults watching professional sports, but I’m actually shocked when I see some of that same behavior in the stands at a child’s sporting event.

Recently, I was at a high school girls’ soccer game where I witnessed a father screaming across the field at his daughter. I also watched as her participation and enthusiasm for the game decreased significantly. It was nothing short of sad to watch her head start to lower, her shoulders sink, her speed across the field decrease, and her participation shrink to walking up and down the field.  Prior to that, she had been one of the stars of the game. At one point the coach even quietly pulled the father aside to talk to him. It didn’t seem to help. That event has been haunting me ever since, because I felt helpless in changing the situation. In hindsight, I wish that I had known how to react or what to say to make the girl feel better or the father pipe down.

Sports are recreation for our kids and recreation is supposed to be fun. As adults we sometimes make it too difficult for our children to have fun. We should be helping children to learn good etiquette, sportsmanship, and teamwork. Parents screaming at the umps, yelling at their children, or berating the coaches are not only not fun, they’re also embarrassing and lower our children’s self esteem. These effects and emotional scars can last a lifetime.

Let’s make it simple. Let’s tell our children “It’s just baseball” (or soccer, or t-ball, or whatever). Whatever it is, it is all about having fun. If we have fun watching them participate, they will have fun. Playing the game is what should be important. Winning or losing are just an end. In this case, I firmly believe the means to the end is more important than the end itself.

Go throw a ball, cheer on your child, cheer on your neighbor’s child (even if they’re on the opposing team) and congratulate all the children who play the game.

Have you witnessed any parents behaving badly at sporting events? Tell us about what you saw, and how you handled the situation.


RJ Jaramillo is a single father of three and the founder of While facing the daily challenges of raising three children on his own after his divorce, RJ realized how few resources were available to help him during this journey. He started in 2007. RJ lives in Southern California with his family.

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  1. Lei Report

    There have been many sporting events that I have attended with a friend and her husband. Mr. has an attitude and behavior that is very embarassing, where he yells at the players including his grandson. His grandson has stopped playing sports because of this behavior. At one point, I told Mr. that it is too bad that we are not perfect like you in sports. That shut him up briefly, because he is far from perfect.

  2. KimG Report

    Though I have not experienced any of these actions first hand, I have seen news broadcast about parents becomming violent during the child’s games. I have also had the opportunity to be in discussions in classes that I’m taking in college about this very thing. I think it’s a shame that some parents can’t be supportive to thier children during these sporting events, after all, aren’t team sports about teaching our children how to cooperate, support and encourage their teammates? What do you think would happen if you and other parents began to cheer for the child whose parent is fussing from the stands? Here’s an idea, why not have regular meetings of parents whose childre play the sport to encourage good sportmanship from them during games. Perhaps this particular parent is responding in the same manner that his parents responded to him as he played sports. “Each one, teach on”

  3. Jim C Report

    I’ve not only witnessed this with Parents but with Coaches also. My son plays high school basketball and an opposing Coach in his conference this year had to be escorted with his team and fans out of our school by the local police after a loss in our gym.

    The Coach in question has been screaming at refs since we joined the conference two years ago but he has escalated to kicking and throwing chairs this year. He got his players so worked up after this last loss that they trashed and defecated in our locker room. And his reward for this life lesson…Coach of the Year!

  4. Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Report

    SingleDad: I have definitely seen these parents at sporting events…even T-ball. I always find it really sad for the kids. Eventually, children in this situation usually give up or become so upset that they cannot perform on the field. I always think that these parents have way too much invested in their children’s abilities and that somehow, their child’s prowess on the playing field becomes a reflection, in the parent’s mind, of how important they are. If you stopped to ask yourself, “What does my child need from me right now,” as James Lehman suggests, I don’t think you would ever come to the conclusion that your child needs to be embarrassed or degraded in front of his or her peers! Thanks for this post — it’s a great reminder to everyone.

    By the way, has anyone out there ever said anything to a parent who was yelling or being rude at a game? What did you say, and did it help?

  5. Laguna Report

    I can say I have seen those same kind of reactions too. But what kind of example are you as a parent setting for your children? I know one thing was always for sure, and that was I knew my father would never yell at me during any game of mine nor would he yell at any one else on either team. I dont believe it is healthy for the child or any of the other children on the field.

  6. awstevens Report

    I have been to sporting events in high school when the parents were way to aggressive at the game. I have not been in the position to have my parents be the ones displaying embarrasing behavior but I have had friends or peers parents around me acting this way. It is embarrasing for the child, especially when the parent is overreacting and it is embarrasing for the school to have fans acting that way. It is damaging to the team and the child’s self-esteem, no matter what their age.



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