Dan Pink's sensible idea: ban parents from their kids' sporting events

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As a boy my parents came to my matches at the thought thrills me to this day. Hearing my dad yell when I scored a goal was a major impetus for me as I develooed athletically.

I went on to a soccer scolarship and a short professional career, and still play twice a week at 54.


I think it totally depends on the league and sport, and parent. Some can be downright game disrupting or put pressure on their kids performance as to cause anxiety.
I will say the parents at the Ultimate games my kid plays in are all very laid back and will cheer any good play, groan at any critical turnover regardless of which team it is. Even when the kids are losing we are happy to see that they take in stride and are just having fun playing and paying more attention to fair play than the grown ups do.


Perhaps some parents need coaching on how to attend their kids’ games.


There always seems to be a few parents in the crowd that will vehemently disagree with [coach’s strategy, referee calls, other team’s attitude, etc.], and they will make absolute asses of themselves and generally ruin the celebratory attitude of the other enthusiasts. I don’t know that banning parents from games is a good idea, because they can certainly contribute to the event as a whole…but man, that subset of jerky people can be horrible to witness.


Would this not also apply equally well to piano recitals, school plays, debate teams, etc.?

Gonna be a whole lotta empty seats in those auditoriums.


I do not recall parents going to the (one-act) play competitions, nor debate tournements. Non-competitive recitals, yes.


This is a typical “wag the dog” sort of argument you’d expect from an academic. Everyone knows that the games aren’t about the children, but are instead a showcase of the parent’s perfection… as long their little brat doesn’t screw the pooch and embarrass them in front of the whole damn town.


Ive been a youth sports coach now in baseball and soccer for 7 years. All of this sounds great, especially removing the extreme fringe case parents. Not just the ones who berate and make asses of themselves, but also the ones who clap and cheer and yell “it’s ok. you’re doing ok.” no matter how terrible their child is doing. No, its not ok. Which is why I as the coach then spend half times and sideline moments telling your kid what they are doing wrong. Correcting their behavior.

classic example is when the kid playing defense on soccer wildly panics and just kicks the ball either out of bounds or half way back across the field to no one except the other team’s defense. Parents applaud this behavior…I detest it. Its awful play!!! We want the kids to first, not panic; and second control the ball. kicking it out of bounds just gives the other team possession. Wildly kicking it to the other defense gives them possession!! We teach against that!! Stop applauding it.

I digress, the issue I have is banning parents entirely removes a key element to many kids’ motivation - which is to do good in front of others. It also removes a very important lesson that youth sports teaches better than anything - failure in the eyes of others. Kids feel badly when they lose, especially when in front of friends and family. They need to learn this. They need to learn there is a last place, not everyone is the winner!!!

As for the suggestions to play pick up games with parents. well…I would personally love this, but a couple issues present themselves: first: getting kids to show up for practices and games regularly can be a challenge because they have way too many commitments and distractions as it is, getting the parents to come is also by extension problematic. Second: because of the increase in rules, regulations, and safety concerns; parents cannot step on fields with kids to play unless they are licensed, certified, back ground checked and written confirmation they are in fact not a Velociraptor!!! Its almost comical the hoops and hurdles you have to go through in many youth sports so as to protect the kids from…yeah, you guessed it…THEIR OWN PARENTS!!!


Daniel Pink is no academic. He’s a lawyer and professional speaker.

Signs like this should be put up at every field and sporting event:


I totally thought I was not one of “those parents,” but when my kid was little and swimming on a team, I so got into it.

I was asked to leave when she joined (at age 5) a year round, competitive swim league. She was constantly looking up in the stands, smiling and waving at me instead of putting her head down in the pool and swimming.

I rather liked the setup at a place my brother goes to where his kids swim: the parents are behind glass. So they could see what the kids were doing and the kids knew they were there, but the couldn’t hear each other.



This wasn’t an issue when I was a kid. I was barely aware my parents were there. My kid plays volleyball and there aren’t any issues.

But then again I saw on my facebook about some fall out from a girls soft ball game where an umpire was in tears and people calling parents and grand parents out on their actions. So clearly there are places where people take it too damn far.

It’s a fucking game. A game that is supposed to be played for fun. If no one is having fun you are doing it wrong.


I have some distinct memories of performing for my parents instead of doing well in the sport in my first couple of sports days but at about year three of primary school my competitive nature really took off and all I cared about was destroying my opponents.

Took me kind of a while to get over that side of myself. Perhaps as well as educating/preparing/banning parents, there should also be some kind of concentration on teaching kids good sports-psychology. The whole ‘win at all costs’ attitude that gets drilled into them can sometimes make for a poisonousness environment.

Sure, they might do better without their parents there, but is it really of the absolute utmost importance to squeeze every ounce of effort and concentration out of them? I know in America they start planning careers in sports-ball quite early but… c’mon, it should also be fun and inclusive.

Frankly I think this is a totally sensationalist piece. Yes, there are issues. But, as another commenter mentioned, removing the spectators from a spectator sport is kind of like saying that we should remove the audience from a play so the actors don’t get nervous. This is LIVE PERFORMANCE we’re talking about. So the audience is kind of required. If you don’t think spectator sports are performances, then you’re deluding yourself. Pickup games are awesome. I play pickup. But it’s not the same thing.

Youth sports like this are communal activities. The teams and the spectators are communing around the game. Removing the spectators would fundamentally change the nature of youth sports like this. I’ve coached youth sports and been involved with youth sports for my kids. The whole thing is a social phenomenon where everyone has a part. Kids, parents, coaches, etc.

There are other options. Our Youth Soccer league in San Francisco has a “Silent Saturday and Sunday” every season. http://www.sfyouthsoccer.com/silent-sat---sun.html

This could be extended to all games. Spectators are there and are allowed to clap. That’s it. You cannot cheer or talk to anyone on the field. In fact, that would make it pretty much like the audience at a play.

I totally get this. I f’ing hate sitting on the side of the field with the other kids fat parents while my son or daughter play their soccer games. I usually go juggle or ride my unicycle. I am excited that my kids enjoy playing the game with their friends and I love hearing their descriptions of it when they are done but sitting or standing around making small talk and having everyone around me go apeshit when a crucial play I barely understand goes down is like hot skewers under the fingernails.


A far better solution would to penalize the team for the parents’ bad behavior. Parents could be given a simple list of rules to follow when attending their child’s sporting event. The first violation is a yellow flag. The second violation, the offending parent is asked to either leave the event or have their child’s team suffer a one-run or 20-yard penalty.

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Then don’t go. But why would you want to forbid other parents from doing it?

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I kind of love this idea. Make the whole event a team sport.