Sports Sideline Etiquette

In our house we eat, sleep, and breathe sports. Our weekends are spent on the sidelines, and my washing machine is always running because of smelly and muddy uniforms—and I LOVE it. But you know what I don’t love? The absurdly awful parents on the soccer sidelines and baseball bleachers who are poor sports and setting a bad example for kids both on and off the team. It’s mind blowing that so many parents want to live through their children’s athletic prowess and are turning what should be a fun environment into a toxic one. So I’m sharing some tips for Sports Sideline Etiquette to remind all of us what our role is at our kids’ next big game.

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As I’ve shared on my blog and social media channels, I LOVE sports. I mean, I schedule my Sundays around kickoff, I bleed Cubby blue, and I have been known to stay up WAY too late when a game goes into overtime. But when it comes to my kids playing sports, it’s different. 

You won’t hear me scream “Rip his head off!” like I may or may not during the Bears game (I swear I don’t mean it) and I will applaud any great play—no matter the team. Why? Because I’m a parent and we set the tone for our players—whether we like it or not.

While parents all may have a different level of competitiveness and dedication to their kids’ athletic activities, it is imperative that all of us abide by Sports Sideline Etiquette. Not only does it create a better playing environment, but it also teaches our youth, both on and off the field, how THEY should act.

Sports Sideline Etiquette Tip #1

Remember that your playing days are over (#sorrynotsorry). You aren’t on the team. Instead, you are a CHEERLEADER. Cheerleaders don’t boo, do they? No. They CHEER. NO. MATTER. WHAT. 

Just yesterday my son’s soccer team got creamed 9-0. Was it uncomfortable? Sure. Were the kids disappointed? Somewhat. Were the parents cheering? You know it. Because no matter what, you can always find a bright spot. Need some suggestions?

“Good Try!”

“Nice Hustle!

“Great Sportsmanship!”

“I like the way you ___!”

“Way to help your team!”

“I love watching you play!”

“I am proud of you!”

Fumble around with words? Then find another way to showcase your team spirit. Personalized photo buttons are always a hit and make your child feel oh so special.

Sports Sideline Etiquette Tip #2

Look around. You aren’t in a major league stadium, the players aren’t paid athletes. They are kids. And there are kids on the sidelines. Depending on the league or level, the referee/umpire is a teenager. Your conduct should be family friendly, no matter how upset or irritated you might be. End of discussion.

Sports Sideline Etiquette Tip #3

Have some perspective. Maybe you have dreams that your child will be an Olympian or at the very least get a college scholarship based on his or her athletic ability. That’s awesome. It really is. Encouraging your child to have big dreams is WONDERFUL. But freaking out, berating them, and criticizing their play doesn’t help. 

Chances are, they will “Go Pro in Something Else” as the NCAA commercials say, and it would be more helpful for you to teach them how to act as an athlete (work hard, stay humble, be determined, collaborate with others, etc.) so that they can learn life skills that extend way off the field or court.

Sports Sideline Etiquette Tip #4

Have complaints? Keep them to yourself. Or better yet, get out of your comfortable chair (have you checked out the canopy ones?) and VOLUNTEER. 

This season I had to deal with an extremely rude neighbor who would run his mouth off, criticizing my husband’s coaching every week on the soccer sidelines. Here’s the thing. My husband was donating his time (and money!), leaving work early and coaching energetic boys who don’t always listen while this other parent simply complained without offering any solution.

There is nothing worse than someone who will whine and complain but do nothing about it. Oh, and spoiler alert—each and every kid on the team has been having a blast this season and the soccer squad is GREAT. So take that, crabby pants. And if it is too hard to keep your mouth shut, bring a lollipop to the game to keep your mouth busy. It works for toddlers and unruly parents.

Sports Sideline Etiquette Tip #5

Say thank you. To the team mom who tries to keep track of all the rescheduled games, the referees who work to help your child learn the game and stay safe all at once, and most importantly—the coaches!

Whether they are parent volunteers or paid coaches, they deserve your thanks. Sometimes coaching kids can be like herding cats and appreciation must be given—maybe via a Starbucks gift card. 😉

Sports Sideline Etiquette Tip #6

Remember, it is just a game. That kids are playing. CHILL OUT.

Play Ball!


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  1. Julie says

    Totally agree, we have had a few parents try to coach on the sidelines while the coach is talking to their kids and the kid didn’t know who to listen to! Parents need to chill out.

  2. Janell says

    We’re still new to the kids sporting arena so I haven’t seen the negative behavior emerge but I hear plenty of stories. Thank you for the reminder!

  3. Melanie says

    Such great tips! I have been to my nephews games before where adults are being obnoxious. It makes it awkward for everyone and takes so much away from the kids.

  4. Kimberly says

    This is awesome. When I was younger the parents of the opposing softball teams were terrible!! We even had some parents trying to fight ours…over a game.. it was ridiculous!

  5. Shayla Marie says

    We only play sports as a family for fun and PE, (we have six kids so it works well to create teams). We love playing them, but my kids aren’t in sports like this because we chose to invest in and encourage them in the arts instead. By reading this post it made me glad we did what we did, I don’t think I could be as nice as it sounds like you have been!! Especially to that rude guy you wrote about!!

  6. Jen says

    Wow, this is so great. We sometimes forget the true meaning of sports. Your blog helps us to give awareness and show other parents to practice the right etiquette in sports especially when it comes to our kids. Thank you for sharing. BTW, your kids are super cute 🙂

  7. Krissy says

    I love this post. I’m not there yet with my son as he’s still too little, but I have noticed over the years with my nieces and nephews that parents can make the game almost not fun for the kids. Great tips!

    • Amanda says

      Exactly! I wish parents really thought through how their obnoxious comments affect the kids both on and off the field.

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