Should You Punish the Player to Control the Parent?

2014-09-16T14:17:23-04:00Coaching, Sports Management|

Every youth sports coach has dealt with “those” sports parents before; the loud, the rude, the mean, the pushy. And while (thankfully) they represent a small percentage of sports parents overall, one or two is enough to make for a rough season. A few weeks ago we wrote about a controversial tactic that one soccer coach used to keep aggressive and inappropriate sports parents in line.

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

We were a little surprised to see a fair numbers of coaches and parents came out in support of this approach.

“I LOVE IT! This year I walked away from a team because of the parents behaviors. It was not going to stop and in order for me to keep my integrity I left the team. I was told I abandoned the team when in fact I was punishing the parents for their behaviors. The parents are the ones who wanted me to coach the team and develop their sons skills but felt the rules did not apply to them.”

However, more than a few believe that this coach’s approach is just too extreme and a child describe the imageshould never be used as “leverage” against their parent. As another soccer coach pointed out, it could make for a very awkward and uncomfortable situation for the parent and child. “Sorry, punishing the child for the actions of the parent is completely unjust. Who has any idea what is said/happens on the way home and beyond.”

One coach pointed out that by punishing the player the coach is actually undermining all the positive lessons that youth sports is supposed to teach young players.

“The policy recommended in this article is anathema to what we are trying to achieve as coaches; how could putting a child in the middle of a disagreement between a parent and a coach be fun, make them like the sport or encourage them to play again.”

Many others saw both sides of the argument and felt that while the coach had the right to do what is necessary to keep parents under control, especially when they are way out of line, punishing the player hurts the only person who really does matter. They suggested that coaches and leagues should punish the parent directly, but keep the player out of the equation.

“If a parent is the problem, then that’s who you deal with. Communicate what the club considers acceptable behavior & then go from there, including banning them from the sideline for a game, then a few, then a season.”

“The child should not be used as punishment for the actions of the parents. In a lot of clubs in England there is a code of conduct that all parents and children sign when they pay their annual subscriptions. The relevant “sanctions” can be referred to and used against the parent within that. If the parent shows up even if they are banned and says no one can stop him or her from doing so the game (in agreement between both managers and referee) can be suspended until he or she removes themselves. I’m sure that all other parents wanting to watch the game will provide enough peer pressure for the parent to leave.”

“I am a soccer and basketball official. The answer to this question is very simple; ABSOLUTELY NOT, we shouldn’t punish the players for spectators or coaches bad behaviors. Players are out on the field or court to have fun. If the spectator is not behaving well, just send off the spectator. I sent so many spectators and coaches off the field over the years, it is countless. I love the sports and I have no tolerance for the individuals who doesn’t have respect to the game.”

We can’t imagine that kicking a parent off the field, be it for a game or a season, is easy or fun. Telling a child they are benched because their mom or dad misbehaved is probably even harder. There are bound to be heated words (and sadly, sometimes even physical violence), but at the end of the day youth sports is supposed to be about the kids and their experience. Is there is a 100% right answer/approach? We can’t say for certain.