You’ll find them at every football game. They’re loud, they’re boisterous and they’re distracting.
They’re rowdy parents.
Watching your child play a sport – football or any other – is exciting, and every parent wants to support their child. However, when done the wrong way, what’s seen by some as “supporting” has the opposite effect, creating a negative and detrimental environment for those on the field.
But as often as parents get a bad rap, youth football league commissioners point to coaches as being a big influence on them.
“Ultimately, our culture starts and stops with our coaches,” said Scott Hiland, commissioner of the Washington Township Youth Football League in Indianapolis. “If a coach is acting crazy and yelling, parents will feed off a coach, so our coaches go through an accreditation program where they earn points for doing things properly. There’s a seminar on what we expect from coaches that expands on our league’s code of conduct. If (a coach) acts a certain way, they know we will kick them out.”
In his 16 years as commissioner, Hiland estimates he’s had to remove 40 to 50 coaches from the league for not taking their principles to heart.
“Our rule has teeth,” he said. “You’ll see, if a coach acts up, everyone in our league knows that will be addressed. Our coaches know if they act properly, they can be a positive influence and parents feed off that.”
Commissioners in other leagues have gone to even greater lengths to create a positive playing atmosphere for players. Gerry Logan, sports coordinator at Clinton (Miss.) Parks and Recreation, implemented his own version of “silent night” to illustrate the benefits of a quiet field.
“The premise of ‘silent night’ revolves around parents getting a little too excited (during games) and some folks going overboard. So we do silent night, where from the time the game starts, there’s no shouting, even positive shouting,” Logan said. “Parents can just clap. Coaches can’t shout either. They can coach their players, but instead of shouting, the players run over (to the sideline) after each play.”
While most parents resist Logan on the initiative – “parents don’t really like it, but I don’t really care” – he has seen enough positive effect on the players that he believes it’s here to stay.
Both Logan and Hiland acknowledge that there is a significant place for parents in youth sport.
“We are big on culture here,” Hiland said. “We have to ask ourselves, ‘Who are we?’ and everyone, parents and coaches and players, have to be in on it.
“We believe if you create a certain culture, everyone will jump in. If you’re a parent and you act crazy and everyone else is calm, you feel like you stand out. No one wants to stand out negatively, so by putting everyone on the same page, it curbs more rambunctious parents.”
In the end, though, what’s most important is that those wearing helmets are having fun.
“A lot of these kids don’t respond well to shouting,” Logan said. “They just want to play.”