How to handle out-of-control parents in youth sports

Will Ferrell was hilarious as an overbearing parent in the movie “Kicking and Screaming.” (AP Photo/Universal Pictures/Suzanne Hanover)

In this section, Dr. Sharon P. Misasi and Dr. David Kemler of Southern Connecticut State University will answer questions about sports psychology and how it relates to our athletes, and the games we play.

Q: Parents often lose control when it comes to their children’s sporting events. Why does this happen? What advice would you have for the kids if they feel their parent is out of control on the sidelines?

 A: Some parents become crazy about their children’s sporting events because, on the surface, they care deeply about the child.

At a deeper level though, those parents are living vicariously through their children. They are under the mistaken belief that if their child performs well, it is because the parent is special; they have good genes and passed on a good work ethic.

When the child performs poorly, they believe that it is due to the opposition, judges, coaches, or bad luck. Many parents do not understand the philosophy of the coach, nor do they understand the game that their child is participating in.

Parents want to protect their children, but often they need to step back and allow the child to experience life to a certain degree. As the child gets older (high school), this is the time when he or she may tell their patent to back off.

One thing that can be done to help this situation is to have coaches and athletes draw up a contract. This gives both the athletes and the coaches more power and control, and leaves less room for parents to interfere. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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