Cool, breezy Saturday mornings were made for the excitement of youth sports games – that is, until you hear the screeching sound of some parent obnoxiously yelling at their child from the sidelines. This sideline coaching changes the feeling on the field for all kids playing and the mood in the stands for the spectators.

Yelling never helps

Parents, let’s be clear – games are NOT the appropriate time to correct or prevent errors. Games are designed to test the skills kids learned at practices on and off the field. Although you may have the best of intentions and really just want to see your child succeed, you are completely undermining the coach and your child’s concentration when you yell from the sideline. Even simple things like, “get that back elbow up!” during a baseball game are a distraction for most kids.

Trust me, I TOTALLY get it. I am a coach and a mom. It is very difficult to bite my tongue when I’m supposed to be JUST a spectator mom, not a coach mom. I fight every urge to walk up to the sideline to tell my son what he should do differently – like he was doing in practice just the day prior. It’s insanely difficult to not holler at my son about something that I think he should have done, although his coach did not seem to think so.

Let the Coach be the Coach

Listen parents, no two coaches are the same. Coaches won’t coach identically; they will run different drills or focus on different skills that benefit the majority of the team, not just one player. Sideline coaching and yelling at your child ultimately kills their passion, ambition, and focus. Parents, relax! Let the coach be the coach. You sit back and enjoy the beauty of the game – where the greatest player of all time calls you Mom or Dad.

Sports Parents watching a youth soccer game from the sideline

I recently read an NCAA youth sports survey from 2015 detailing the results of a 30-year study into college athletes’ youth sports experiences. What stands out in this study is that an overwhelming majority of college athletes said their No. 1 complaint in their youth sports years was the “dreaded car ride home with their parents” after the game. It was especially higher among athletes who had chosen to listen to coaches during games instead of their parents. Most students reported they simply wanted to be told: “I love watching you play.”

Compete, BUT enjoy

If that isn’t enough for you to sit back down in the bleachers, think about this statistic from that same NCAA study: 48-percent of college baseball players said their youth sports years were “too competitive” before entering college. They wish they had spent more time actually enjoying the game they love – errors and all. For a shortened version of the 2015 study, you can check it out here on the NCAA website. Most college athletes said parents usually had “unrealistic pro expectations” for them.

Here’s one last thing to stew on before you step up to the field for some well-intended sideline coaching at the next game. I recently spoke to an Arizona State University athletics recruiter. He said that they generally pass on athletes who are not “teachable”. Meaning if they fail to take direction from their coaches to implement it during practices and, or games, they are not teachable. You cannot expect your child to adapt, overcome, and put into practice what coach is advising them to do, with you telling them something different from the sideline.

Encouragement goes a long way

Trust me, as a coach, I will sometimes let little Johnny step up and use his ineffective swing the first time at bat. Then his second time at bat I will respectfully pull him aside and ask him to give me a few “practice swings.” I ask him things like, “is that where your feet go? What about your elbow? Where is your strike zone?”

Gentle nudges to remind him (or her) what we learned at practice go a long way. Sure enough, the second time at bat goes much smoother. When little Johnny comes back to the dugout, I make sure to very sweetly give him some praise by saying something like, “Wow Johnny! Great swing! What a run! Did you see the difference from the first time to this time? Good job buddy, now get your glove.” If you are yelling at your child from the stands, you aren’t giving him the opportunity to learn from his errors.

Mistakes happen, get over it

Errors are NOT bad! They are there for LEARNING, especially in youth sports. No college recruiter is going to care how many mistakes your child made in their youth sports careers.

So parents, breathe, step back, and relax. Enjoy the game with your child and forget about sideline coaching. Give them the affirmation they desperately seek. Then, take them to the batting cages the next day to work on that swing a little more. But don’t holler corrections at them from the stands. They only have a few precious years to be your Sandlot boys – let them develop a lifelong passion by making it fun.

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April Morganroth is a Multimedia, Print, Broadcast & Digital Journalist. She is also an Anchor & MMJ Reporter at iHeart Media as well as a Baseball Mother, Coach, and Sportlo contributor.

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