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How to Be a Good Fan at Your Child's Games, Part 1

A soccer team

Just as your child learns physical, social and mental skills while playing sports, you can learn how to model appropriate behaviors at athletic contests by developing a few skills of your own:

  • Cheering for your child's team and not against opponents
  • Respecting all game officials
  • Being positive, not critical

Cheer for Your Team, Not Against the Opponent
You have more influence on your child than anyone else. How you act at a sporting event will influence your child's actions. If you want to teach him or her how to be a good sport, start by modeling sportsmanship.

Your reaction to bad calls, unfortunate circumstances, disappointment and even failure will teach your child how to handle similar situations. For this reason, you must be aware of what you say and do at all times during games. Remind yourself of the role you play. As a fan, your job is to cheer on and support your child, the team and the coaches. That's it! There's no reason for you to get involved in any other way with officials, opposing fans, players, coaches or even your child during a game.

Focus on cheering for your child and the team. Praise all the players for their efforts and the good plays they make. Don't heckle opposing players. In fact, if a child from the other team makes an outstanding catch, shot or pass, clap for him. This behavior helps create a fun game atmosphere for everyone involved. When you do your job well, you show your child and other parents exactly what they should do, too.

Respect Officials
When it comes to not criticizing referees and game officials, the sad truth is that many parents fail miserably. If you are someone who gets upset at officials, keep in mind that most of them are volunteers who are trying their best to get things right. Rarely will their calls affect the outcome of a game. In youth sports, referees have two responsibilities:

  • To make sure both teams (or players) follow the rules
  • To keep order

Officials strive to be neutral and keep everything as fair as possible. That's their job, and that's why they are there. They aren't professionals. In fact, many youth sports officials are teenagers who volunteer their time. They will make mistakes occasionally, so it's unrealistic to expect perfection all the time.

You can model respect for officials by doing three things:

  • Keep quiet when there's a questionable ruling
  • Learn the rules of your child's sport
  • Thank officials after games

By modeling these behaviors, you help your child (and other players and parents) recognize and respect the tough job officials have. You also teach them about showing respect to authority figures, whether they are referees, bosses, teachers, elected officials or law enforcement officers.

To learn how to be more positive and less critical as a spectator, see Part 2 of How to Be a Good Fan at Your Child's Game.