The Place


How to be a Good Sports Parent while Playing Fan, Coach or Referee

Posted at 3:55 PM, Oct 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-15 17:55:22-04

Parents play countless roles in their children's lives, from doctor and taxi driver to cook and janitor. Perhaps three of the most important roles they will play is that of Fan, Coach, and Referee. It can be frustrating for both parents and children when the roles are mixed up. The trick is knowing when to play each role. Dr. Dave (David Schramm,  Ph.D, CFLE) from Utah State University stopped by with some tips for parents related to each of these three roles.

1. Parenting as Fans - True fans cheer their team on, especially when things are going well.

• Parents should spend most of their time cheering, loving, and supporting their children, especially when good things happen. 'I sure noticed how hard you were trying to make your bed' or 'I appreciate you brushing your teeth without being asked.'
• Parents should stay positive, notice when things are going well, and not dwell and remind children of past mistakes. Build and maintain a strong relationship.
• Players (children) want to do better and be better when they hear and feel the roaring support of the fans (their parents). Imagine how you might feel if you were playing sports and there was no cheering from the fans when things went well, only boos, yelling, and throwing things when you did not play well.

• Loyal fans are supportive, even during tough games and losing seasons. Sometimes parents even have to search for small things to cheer about.

2. Parenting as Coaches - A Coach's role is primarily to teach, encourage, and correct when needed.

• Parents should teach both rules and fundamentals of 'the game.'
• Parents should recognize, appreciate, and give credit for effort.
• Parents model control by demonstrating control. Best coaches refrain from yelling and threatening. Coaches can also call timeouts when needed.

• Coaches can have players sit out for a little while to cool off, and then teach when they are ready.

3. Parenting as Referees - A Referee`s role is to make sure players are safe, obey the rules, and administer consequences when rules are broken.

• Parents/referees should remain neutral and pleasant. Referees should not yell at or argue with players.

• Parents/referees should administer reasonable consequences or withhold privileges but reset and get the players playing again soon after the infraction.

Parenting can be frustrating and challenging as well as bring happiness and excitement. Parents, like good coaches and supportive fans, know that players do their best when they have great relationships with their coach, feel supported and loved by their fans, even when they make mistakes or lose their temper. Children feel discouraged when we only point out the negative. Parents should spend the bulk of their time as Fans, building relationships, cheering them on, and supporting them on good and bad days. They should also spend time as Coaches, teaching, encouraging, and modeling. Occasionally parents need to be Referees and administer consequences for poor choices without yelling or arguing.

For more great tips be sure to check out DrDaveUSU on Facebook or visit