Parent Coaching from the Sidelines should be Banned from all Sport

by Desiray W.

Growing up in society today a lot of parents want their child to be the best at everything they do and they want their child to succeed in a particular sport like they never got too. Some parents will do absolutely everything to push their child past their limits, and have unrealistic expectations for them. Parents coaching from the side lines seems to be getting more popular every year (see:

Watch: Rick Davis on Parents’ Sideline Behavior

From what I observed being in the sport of gymnastics, there were many parents that would like to sit and watch their kid the entire practice and actually call them over and tell them what they need to be doing differently. These children felt more pressure when their parents were watching and did not seem to be having much fun as the other children. Most children that were always being coached from the sidelines by their parents tended to quit the sport earlier in life such as when they reached the age where they didn’t care about their parent’s opinion. I, on the other hand, never got coached from the sidelines. My mother would never come watch practice; she would only come watch competitions and at the time, I didn’t notice it but I think it had a lot to do with why I stayed in the sport so long and why I have become so passionate about it. It was because I was never required by my parents to meet any expectation. I set my own goals at my own pace. Seeing the other side of the spectrum by being a coach in a sport, I do not like when parents will come and watch a four-hour long practice and will be coaching their children from the sidelines. For one, that is my job, and two, it is impossible to coach to the best of your ability when you have a parent staring at you the entire time and talking about any little thing you may not be doing right.

From what we see and hear today in social media is that parents watching their children play sports are sometimes getting aggressive during their children’s sport games. They are screaming at referees and coaches from the sidelines. It can be argued that a separate, but equally important subset of parent aggression is verbal aggression. The psychological impact of verbal aggression can be just as detrimental to its intended target, especially if a person is repeatedly subjected to it over a period of time (Goldstein & Iso-Ahola, 2008). Parents are not only coaching their own kids from the sidelines but they are trying to tell other kids what to do which is terrible. A study by the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission, reported in 1999, that 45% of children surveyed and said that adults had called them names, yelled at them, and insulted them while they played sports. Even more disturbing, 17% reported that an adult had hit, kicked or slapped them while participating in sports (Shields, Bredemeier, LaVoi, & Power, 2005). This is not in any way going to promote positive youth development in sport nor contribute to any positive assets being acquired. These are negative memories that they will always remember and will affect the way they see that sport as a child.

Many feel that all sport organizations should have a meeting at the start of the sport season where the organizations preference will determine an adequate policy that all parents have to adhere by and clearly stating the consequences of their actions if not to follow the rules. Coaches should draw parents into the discussion instead of just lecturing them. Teach parents about the negative effects parenting from the side lines has on a child and how following this policy will be more beneficial to their child. (Smoll & Cumming, 2011)


Goldstein, J. D., & Iso-Ahola, S. E. (2008). Determinants of Parents’ Sideline-Rage Emotions and Behaviors at Youth Soccer Games. Journal Of Applied Social Psychology, 38(6), 1442-1462. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2008.00355.x

Shields, D., Bredemeier, B. L., LaVoi, N. M., & Power, F. C. (2005). The sport behaviour of youth, parents and coaches. Journal of Research in Character Education, 3 (1), 43-59.

Smoll, F. L., Cumming, S. P., & Smith, R. E. (2011). Enhancing coach-parent relationships in youth sports: Increasing harmony and minimizing hassle. International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, 6(1), 13-26.

Other academic sources


About Charlene Shannon-McCallum

I passionately teach, research, blog, and tweet about leisure, recreation, and sport. My focus is on youth development, gender issues in leisure and sport, family, leisure education, leisure and health, and bullying in recreation and sport settings.
This entry was posted in Coaching, Parents, Positive Youth Development and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Parent Coaching from the Sidelines should be Banned from all Sport

  1. mfergunb says:

    I very much believe that all sport organizations should have not only parent/team staff meetings at the beginning of the year, but regular meetings throughout the season to discuss proper conduct and behaviour. It is one thing to bring all possible issues to the table right away and discuss consequences; however, I think that regular meetings would also help further minimize the risk of unnecessary behaviour from certain parents as well.

    I definitely witnessed parents becoming too involved in their child’s performance from the sidelines growing up with sport, and unfortunately still see it today as a coach. Whether it is intermission chats between parent and child or verbal harassment from the sidelines, parents should realize that the coaches are there to do their job of leading these youth in sport, and the parents should stick to the positive supportive role during playing time. While I believe that parents should be free to give tips, comments and certain criticisms to their child, there is definitely a time, place and way to do this.

    I also liked how you mentioned that parents not only criticize their own children, but the referees and coaches as well. I still to this day avoid the opportunity to officiate/ref hockey games due to the fact that I have seen how poorly they are often treated from coaches and sideline parents. We tend to focus on educating youth about the risks of harassment and bullying; however, we tend to ignore that even some adults need to be reminded of these risks.

    Great post Des!

    – Meagan F.

  2. madelineakennedy says:

    Great article,
    I think this is an important, relevant topic pertaining to youth development today. I do think that parents feel the need to help their children become the very best they can be. Unfortunately, in some cases, this looks less like help, and more like dragging them alongside. Sometimes, backseat coaching and intense parents can lead to very talented athletes, but I think in a lot of cases, as you mentioned, it simply leads to unhappy youth who are more likely to drop out of the sport.
    I really like your idea of having a meeting at the beginning of seasons including parents and coaches to set out guidelines and to educate parents on why they are doing this. I think this would be a lot more effective than simply having a policy. I think even if they formed some sort of self-monitoring system for the parents (parents are responsible to say something to another parent if they are not complying with the rules), that would be effective. It may even help reduce parental sideline coaching because they know the other parents disapprove.

  3. emilymckim says:

    Great post Desiray!

    I completely agree that parent’s involvement in sport has increased significantly in the past few years. Parents are becoming more helicopter parents and attempting to control every aspect of their child’s life, including how they are being coached. I have had a few parents who will video tape their daughters practices and go home and critique everything they did; however, these parents were never swimmers and are just judging their daughters based on other swimmers in the club and are not actually qualified to be making these critiques. Parents believe they know what is best for their children in every situation even if they have no experience in such situations.

    This constant attention on how the child is developing in a sport, is putting a lot of pressure on these kids to succeed. This type of pressure is not always beneficial. It can be quite hindering to developing assets for these youth. They will lose their passion for the sport because their parents took the fun out of participating. There was one incident when one of my swimmers had just competed and she was happy with her results and she felt proud of her self. After going to see her mother, she returned in tears because her mother had just told her how horribly she did and how she could of done so much better. This breaks the children’s confidence. They need to be supported through the sporting context to insure they have a positive and motivating experience. Parents need to care about their child and show interest in their sporting world; however, I agree there needs to be limits.

    Emily M

  4. jordandavenport says:

    I think that is important to have your parents involved, but there has to be a point when you have to draw the line. I think that some parents act like they are the child’s manager and they feel like it is up to them to make their kid a professional. I don’t see the reason why parents find the need to attend practice, unless it is for picking up or dropping off their child. Parents need to give that time to the coach, so he or she can do what they signed up to do. In my experiences with sport I have also noticed that when certain kids parents were they, it was almost like they were scared to make a mistake or they put on a show. It can be nerve racking for a new comer coach to do their job when they think that always have to be wondering if a parent is going to come give them advice on how to coach. I have played with kids who’s parents would argue if they missed a shift or did not get that extra minute of ice time, even in a scrimmage.

    I agree that there should be policies set at the beginning of the year, as well as regular meetings to keep all the parents on the same page. I believe that if parents are notified at the beginning of the year there should be no excuses for these kinds of actions. Parents need to realize that they are only hurting their child’s experience and making themselves look bad and like poor role models.

    Jordan D.

  5. j6kj3 says:

    Great article and video as you can tell we all agree with you on this topic! Jordan I like that you touched base on the part that parents should be involved but a line should be draw. As a new coach it is nerve racking to coach with all the parents in the stands. But I find it almost keeps me on my toes, by making sure I’m not just standing their doing nothing, it pushes me more to be prepared for ice times.

    My dad was a great role model for behaviour in the rink. He cheered and yelled, only when he really thought something should be called or had a funny chirp to throw in. I was lucky to grow up and play with basically the same group of girls, which meant the same parents. The kids worked as a team on the ice and the parents worked as a team off the ice, which showed us that they supported what we were doing. The parents of my teammates were respectful in the arena, which was great because it was never fun going to a game knowing there was going to be parents yelling at you.
    It always seemed to be the same towns that would have rowdy parents, the cycle continues on since that is how they were taught playing sports.

    I completely agree with educating parents about the negative effects coaching from the sideline can do. By making it policy of an organization can have many benefits for youth in the sport. Youth sports are their for the healthy development of the youth, not for the parents to over coach them.

  6. haileyrendell says:

    Great post!

    I think that it is important for organizations to start implementing a policy for what to do with parents but that it is also pathetic. The shame and embarrassment kids must feel when their parents start yelling and coaching from the sidelines must be unbearable and I can understand why there are such high levels of dropout. This being said however it looks like it is up to the organizations to do something to change this. I have felt what it is like through both being a player and a referee and there doesn’t seem to be much I could have done about it.
    As a ref for U8 soccer I had parents scream at me that I was missing calls and not doing my job, I was 12 at the time so didn’t know how to react. You would see kids as they get older wave their parents off or just look embarrassed and they no longer want to play.
    As a player for my U18 team, we had such a big issue with one parent that we had to have closed practices. This meant no one other than the coach and players were allowed in the gym because the parent was harassing the other girls so much.

    What kind of example is this setting for their kids? How can they go home and educate their kids on not being a bully and being nice to others when you have adults yelling at kids. This isn’t even to mention what it is doing to their own youth’s self-esteem and confidence. It’s time for parents just to sit down and enjoy seeing their kid play, before they don’t want to anymore.

  7. Great post Desiray! I think parents are coaching from the sidelines more than they used to and that’s not what should be happening. My dad always watched my soccer practices, he wasn’t too bad when it came to telling me how to do things properly or when I made a mistake. He played professionally so I knew what he was saying was right and only motivated me. I’ve seen multiple parents yell at their kids during practice, and I’ve witnessed some even hit their child when they made a mistake. That was pretty disturbing to see and in no way does it help with their development. They need to be able to just listen to the coach and make mistakes and learn from them, its part of everyday life. Having a meeting at the beginning of every season and implementing a policy sounds like a great idea. We’ve seen in class what happened when parents got involved in a recreation basketball game, the season was called off. We don’t want this to happen so bringing in the parents, and making sure they understand the consequences of their actions is important. I agree that the child may not have the positive development they need growing up if the parent is always telling them what to do. I don’t like seeing parents putting their children in sports that the child does not want to be in. It does not make the situation any better for the child, as there is more pressure to make the parent happy. The youth need to be able to have creativity allowing them to use their imaginations and build stronger cognitive skills.

  8. jesseunderhill says:

    Great post Desiray. This is a relevant topic within youth development which I have come to witness many times playing sports. I have seen parents many times become much too engaged in their kid and/or sport and have ended up using aggression towards them or a coach, referee, or even another kid or parent on the sidelines. All of these have the potential to negatively impact their own kids experiences, which is the opposite of what I hope they’re trying to achieve with their actions. Teams need policies for regulating more effective ways for communication between parents and kids, and coaches so I really like your idea of including parents in the discussion of this instead of just lecturing them, and showing them how their actions might negatively effect there own childs experiences. Many teams I have been on have never taken this approach so I would love to see how well it would work.

  9. mbell14 says:

    Awesome post Desiray. I agree that parents should be banned from parent coaching from the sidelines because when a parent is yelling and screaming at their child during a game or a practice about what to do and what not to do. The parent should feel embarrassed about acting this way in front of many people and also treating their child like this because it sets a bad example for the child about sports. Parents need to understand that they are a role model for their child because all children learn their actions from watching and observing their parents on how they handle certain situations.
    When I was 12-13 years old, I experienced a parent coaching from the sidelines and that parent was my father. I was playing a hockey game and I was skating with the puck and just before I crossed the other teams blue line, one of the players from the opposite team got the puck off me and in the end the other team scored. I felt bad about it but I felt even worse when my father yelled in front of everyone saying “That was your mistake.” At the end of the game we lost by that one goal and got a big lecture on the way home about what I did wrong.
    To this day I still feel the weight of the pressure on my shoulders when I see my father watching me at my hockey games, but I ended up controlling it when I started playing hitting hockey and that allowed me to get rid of any anger that I had stored up inside. That was only time I seen my father act that way in front of people.
    Parents should be banned from coaching on the sidelines because it allows the child to learn from their mistakes when they are young and take risks by trying things that might work for them.


  10. codyb06 says:

    This is a great post on a very important topic that needs to be brought to light more often, so that more parents can be informed on the issue at hand. I think this is very much related to the discussion about the behavior contract we had in class the other day. Parents need to have set guild lines to help facilitate positive youth development and to avoid parents having a negative effect on the enthusiasm children have for recreational sports, which are competitive in nature but should be about positive reinforcement and fun development. The parents need to be held accountable without the children suffering for their actions as well. Parents that do coach from the sidelines more likely than not will have a negative effect on the youth even if they are doing it for the right reasons. Like you mentioned they can put added pressure on the child which can make the activity not fun for the child. This is one of the leading reasons of youth sport drop out. When I was a kid playing sports in middle school there were both types of parents involved with the team. The ones that came to practices tended to be more aggressive at their kids and at games towards the referees, other parents, and other youth from both teams. I can’t believe how twisted some parents minds get surrounding sports, the fact that 17% reported that an adult had hit, kicked or slapped them while participating in sports is absolutely not acceptable these adults should be charged with child abuse. 100% unacceptable.

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