Parents and Sports: It’s a Tough Job.

Trying to guide kids through a single football season is truly a tough job. And everybody knows that parents and sports can be a bad mix for some parents, moreover it can be a bad mix for their kids. And most often that bad mix is born more out of parental concern rather than any malicious intent. Emotions can run high when a parent believes his/her child is being mistreated, ignored, or put in harms way.

Youth football can be a huge challenge for most kids; trying to be convince a 6-year old that hitting is fun doesn’t even sound normal. In fact, it is abnormal. Hence, the key to getting a 6-year old off to a good start is positive parental support. Parents have to show respect for the coaching staff, referees, the booster club, and the other parents.

Parents made a tunnel for the North Suburban Thunder Tiny Mite football team. (Photo By Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Kids need their parents to reassure them that the people in this new, very rough world, are all focused on keeping them safe and making this new sport fun. Football is fun, Football is fun, Football is fun!!! Don’t forget it.

Coaches need your support in public and in front of your kids. In private, they need to be held accountable just like everybody else in your kids lives….normal parenting.

Obviously, as a parent you have to help your child through the season. He/she will come head on with all kinds of issues that they have never had to deal with. Again, normal parenting, maybe just a little more intense 🙂

But I thought I’d just lay out a few key things that I’ve seen parents have trouble with, so here goes!

Playing Time

I’ve seen coaches fall all across the spectrum on this particular topic. “Only the best play, we want to win.” “I’ll play the weaker kids once we have the game in hand.” “Everybody plays, the score be damned!”

It’s a tough topic, even amongst parents. But where do the parents come in on this? I reiterate, parents need to support the coach, but they also need to hold the coach accountable. This is little league football, IT AIN’T THE NFL!!!

My thoughts–everybody needs to play, but you don’t want to cripple the team, so the coach has to have a plan to make sure that every kid gets playing time. I’ve seen coaches use a team Mom or Dad that actually stands on the sideline with a list and makes sure that every kid has played. Maybe every kid gets a certain number of plays or minutes or quarters, whatever it is.

The key is, the coach can’t do it alone. He/she has to have help, if that means you, then step up and help out, even if it is only on game day.

parents and sportsHitting

Hitting is NOT natural for kids. Let me reiterate, this is NOT NORMAL. Granted, we all know kids that are rough and tough and this aspect of the game does not bother them.

But I’ve seen tons of kids leave the game because they just can’t get past this particular aspect. Hitting and getting hit goes against everything we teach our kids when they are little, now we’re telling them to do it. And don’t be hateful or mean or malicious when they do it; be a good sport. All unnatural.

Talk to your kids about this. You have to help them through that.


Unfortunately, yelling is normal on a football field–in practice, in games, in the stands–everybody is yelling. This too can be very disconcerting for some kids. Coaches and parents alike need to be aware of this.

Often times kids mistake yelling for anger, some kids shy away from it, some kids retaliate in kind, and some just shut down all together. Parents have to be there to help explain all of this to their kids. Most of the time coaches yell, it’s just because they are trying to make sure they can be heard.

Players are wearing helmets, everybody is outside, kids get distracted, coaches yell. Encourage your kids to stay focused, pay attention to the coaches, and be respectful of their coaches and teammates.

Diet and Sleep

Children normally need lots of sleep anyway. When they start playing football, chances are they will need even more sleep, they definitely won’t need less. Maybe that bedtime needs to change from 9pm to 8pm, whatever works into your day, but make sure your child is getting plenty of sleep.

I don’t know how many people I know that don’t eat breakfast–just amazing to me. But then they don’t eat lunch. And then a kid shows up for practice and hasn’t eaten anything but a bag of potato chips all day–not good.

I’m not going to play dietitian here, but kids need to eat. Nothing huge in the hour before practice or a game, but some kind of snack. Outside of an hour before, they need to eat normal meals–preferably NOT heavy red meats or greasy foods–but they do need to eat.

Parents and Sports

In case I haven’t been clear in all of this, parents have a HUGE role in getting their kids through a football season. Never mind the logistics of getting to and from practices and games, but getting them through the physical and mental challenges the game presents.

Football is a tough, physical sport. And just like school, your kids will run into all kinds in this game–bullies, good kids, shy kids, mean kids, and they’ll find some friends.

Ultimately, the players on a team will form a bond, whether the team is good or bad. The players will come together. Whether the team does well or not will (no I do not define good as winning) be a function of whether the adults around them have created a positive learning environment.

Successful youth football teams require extraordinary parents supporting coaches and everyone else in the system.

Parents and Sports: It’s a Tough Job.

If you have any thoughts, advice, or questions please leave them in the comments section below.

And good luck to you and your kid/s,


parents and sports




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11 Comments on “Parents and Sports: It’s a Tough Job.”

  1. Rugby football is a tough and rough sport. I’m also not sure if I’ll allow my children to play this kind of game. I agree with you, sports is supposed to be fun, but you can’t hide the fact that parents will freak out if anything bad happens to their child.

    Anyway, what you said that extraordinary parents supporting coaches are needed to have a successful football team. Whew! I wish I have that courage. However, this article encouraged me to let my children get involved in sports.


    1. Rugby is a whole different conversation for sure–tough sport. Regardless, parents have to be involved if for no other reason than to protect their kids from themselves. It’s hard for kids to know the difference between pain and injury, parents have to help with that. And nothing beats parents and coaches working together. Good luck Eli.

  2. Being a parent of a very competitive and successful athlete, I know where you are coming from. I learned early on….from the coaches of course….that I needed to just drop my son off at practice and then leave. I was not the coach, and it was a bad mix for me to try and tell him what he was doing wrong, when he had the coaches to do that. It was a life for sure that did involve what he ate, how much he slept, precision, practice, conditioning, training, etc. When my son got burned out after 14 years (he did go to the jr olympics) I was quite saddened. It was our life. But now, I see we have a whole wonderful life, and he has life lessons that has shaped into a wonderful young man.

  3. Great article Skip! I have seen some crazy things from parents on the sidelines of youth sports, especially football. My daughter is a cheerleader for 7th/8th grade football and some of the parents take it way to far. You have a great insight and advice throughout your article. Awesome!

  4. Hi Skip,

    What are your thoughts about the potential ramifications of introducing children to contact sports at such a young age?

    Do you feel that the protective equipment is good enough?


    1. Actually I am working on a post about just this topic. My short answer is that Yes the equipment is good enough. Kids are very resilient, tough for other kids to actually hurt them when everybody is padded up properly, especially at ages 6-12. What I see is a lot of inexperienced coaches who don’t actually coach. And Parents have to be involved, they have to help kids learn the difference between pain and injury, so that both can be addressed properly. I hope that helps.

  5. I love this. I’ve always felt that there was fine line between parents being too involved and not involved enough. I agree that a team doing well doesn’t depend on winning, but on how the kids learn to be a team and play together. Sometimes too much focus on winning can be a problem. Great article!

  6. What a great article. You really touched on a lot of key points.

    I see the problem here with children being taught two separate things. Don’t yell and don’t hit. Except when you’re playing football. I can see that being very confusing for a young child.

    I do love putting children in sports at a young age for the very idea that they can learn teamwork and come out of their shell – if they’re shy.

    All in all great article and I learned a lot from you!


  7. A great article, it’s great for children to start young and appreciate the teamwork that’s involved in a sport like this, or any other sport. It can be confusing from the sports ground to the home ground when parents nowadays are saying one thing and the sports coaches are saying another thing, although for good reason. Hopefully, these kids will grow up appreciating the difference between the two and that goes down to the good teaching from both sides. huge respect for what you do.

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