Column: Sideline Behavioral Expectations for Parents

By Gordon Beinstein

Having spent way too much of my adult life on ball fields all around the East Coast, I have witnessed some abhorrent parental behavior. As Western offers competitive sports in which we encourage parents to attend, and having heard a few questionable comments on our own sidelines, I figured now would be a good time for a reminder about your role as a parent at a sporting event, both at Western and beyond.

In short: You are there to cheer on your child and your child’s team. Period. It really is that simple. Anything else has the potential to take away from the experience for your child, and others within earshot. There are four particular infractions of parental etiquette that I have witnessed that need to be addressed:

1) You are not your child’s coach. Regardless of your opinion of the coaches’ aptitude, the coach is in charge and what he/she teaches and communicates is all the child should hear throughout the course of the game when it comes to strategy, playing time, technique, etc. Even if you really were Pele or Lebron as a child, you need to know your role as a parent.

2) The refs are not to be questioned or criticized in any way. While you might feel it clever to ask the ref if he left his Seeing Eye dog at home, or to offer him your glasses, the message it sends to your child is that something isn’t fair. Trust me; the refs could care less about the outcome of the game! Do they miss calls? Of course, but you need to let it go so that your child will.

3) Be positive with your own child! If you want to ensure that your child resents you and/or hates the sport, continue to tell him/her everything they did ‘wrong’. This is true both during the game and on the ride home (something, in full disclosure, I have been guilty of). The best advice I ever received on this topic was simply to tell your child how much you enjoy watching him / her play.

4) Finally, and perhaps the most egregious violation of parental etiquette, and one that I have heard too often on our own sidelines is criticism of other players. It is never ok, for any reason, to insult a player from either team. While most parents know enough not to outright state that a child is ‘no good’, comments such as ‘he can’t cover you’ and ‘don’t pass it to her’ send the same message. Your words can hurt!

Remember, as scary as this may seem, your child is watching and listening to you. If you choose to criticize and question the refs calls, the coaches’ decisions, the skill level of your child and his / her teammates and opponents, then your child will mimic those same behaviors and attitudes. They will begin to make excuses for loses, hate the game, resent you, and lose all of the good qualities that sports can instill when parents, coaches and players are on the same page. Sermon over! Now go and enjoy the game..and let others do the same!

Gordon Beinstein has been working in middle schools for 32 years and still can’t get out of the 8th grade! He is currently the principal of Western Middle School and was recently named the CT Association of Schools 2019 Principal of the Year.