OK friends, full truth: what I am about to offer to you is an outsider’s perspective. I hated playing sports growing up. Hated it. I was the kid who read a book on the sidelines and only went in to play when the coach made me for my mandatory two quarters of play. However, I did love the post-game snack, which is probably how my mom sold me on signing up in the first place.

So while I don’t bring a lot of experience as a former player, I did somehow end up with a few sporty kids and have found myself on the sidelines of sporting events more than I thought I would. And, my friends, I have some things to say. Since I don’t have a super competitive spirit or really even understand all the rules of the game, I might be able to say what needs to be said without these things clouding my vision.

This honest outsider’s perspective offers a few tips about how we can all keep our heads and, at the same time, keep from accidentally being total jerks on the sidelines. And when the theatre awards roll around (yup, that’s actually a thing) you all are totally invited to share these bad boys right back at me because I might lose my wits in this venue and be tempted to break all my own rules.

Here goes:

1. Thou shalt not yell mean things at kids. Even yours—actually, especially yours. And for sure not to kids you never met. Encouragement is always allowed. If you have a “Go team!” or “Nice shot!” or “You look awesome out there!” ready to rip just let that thing loose. But if you are dying to yell a “What were you thinking??” or “Quit lazing around!” or “AHHHHH…NO! KICK/PASS/DRIBBLE THE BALL!!!!” swallow that one down to the depths of your soul. The coach has the direction-giving covered. And no one needs your negative energy when they are trying to concentrate or after they have made a mistake. Trust me on this. Or test my theory. Next time you are trying to do something hard have your people yell at you telling you you’re doing it wrong. See if it makes you better. Spoiler alert: It won’t.

2. Thou shalt not yell mean things at grown-ups. Any of them. The coaches and refs are usually volunteers you also might run into at the grocery store. If these are not two reasons to be really nice I’ll throw in a third: the kids are watching you. The moment you undermine what is happening on the field is the moment your child is apt to stop listening to the coaches and refs. You do not want this even if you momentarily lose your head and think you do. If you don’t agree with something, talk about it later like a grown-up, do not yell like a maniac. Remember, you are in charge of parenting decisions, you were in control when you decided to let them play. And you can decide to take them out of the sport if you don’t love how it’s being run. See? You still have so much decision-making power. But you can’t run the sport itself. Unless . . .

3. Thou shalt step up to the plate if you want to have control. Yup, that’s right. You get to plan plays and make calls and all that other sporty stuff if you are in charge (also I did roll in a sports reference there . . . boom, that might be another one). If you cannot keep your thoughts to yourself this might mean the good Lord has given you the gifts you need to volunteer. They are always in need of more hands and will be happy to have you. Unless you act like a meanie at practices and games then no one wants you around. Sorry friends, that’s just Kindergarten 101. 

4. Thou shalt encourage your kids in the ways of good sportsmanship. Please, parents, don’t just worry about your kid’s technical skills. About .05 percent (roughly) of our kids will go on to be pro-sports anything. One hundred percent of them will be out in the world interacting with people someday. They need to work on all the things that help them be good humans. Playing an honest game, working hard, learning to respectfully listen to those in charge, knowing how to work together, knowing how to win humbly and lose gracefully are all valuable life lessons. Perfecting the perfect throw/kick/pass/other sports thing will not help them in the world, statistically speaking. Let’s maximize the lessons here since we are driving them around for about a million years, and sitting in those super uncomfy chairs and bleachers for a million more just so they can play.

5. Thou shalt be kind. To everyone. To your child. To the parents sitting next to you. To the other team. To the coach. To the ref. To the concession workers. To your other children who are driving you crazy on the sidelines. To the person who has not been kind to you. If you can’t be kind, then for the love of all that is good and holy just be quiet. Full stop.

I look forward to hanging with you all by the sidelines, my friends. It really can be such an amazing place to be and I’m actually grateful to have some sporty people in my family. I’ve learned so much from all you sports nuts and am happy to have the chance to hang in your tribe. Sports can be such a valuable thing for our kids; mine have learned so much taking a walk on the sporty side. And for the record, I’ll be the weirdo out there cheering for both teams mostly because all our kids are so brave to be out there playing with all the eyes on them, but also because, truth be told, I can’t always follow the game. Whatevs. “Go Team!” works in pretty much any situation, am I right?

You might also like:

To the Parent Yelling in the Stands

I Am A Coach’s Wife

Why Tired Mothers Stay Up So Late

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Amy Betters-Midtvedt

Amy Betters-Midtvedt is a writer, educator, mom of 5 crazy kids, wife to a patient husband, and lover of Jesus. She writes along with her friend and former teaching partner Erin over at Hiding in the Closet With Coffee. Our mission is to help parents find sanity and joy, and we know sometimes joy is found hiding out in the closet with coffee, or hiding out on Facebook — come and join us both! You can read more about us here. You can also find us hiding out over at InstagramPinterest, and Twitter.