Mommy Minute: Growing spotlight on ‘sideline’ behavior

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Bob Devine has three sons that play for the Capital Area Soccer Association.

He loves to watch his kids play but admits he is sometimes bothered by poor sideline behavior from other parents.

“You get the whole spectrum on the sidelines,” Devine said. “You get parents that just want to be there to watch and support their children and then you have parents who think they’re the next player on the field that could make a difference in the game.”

Devine says he rarely gets involved unless there’s a physical threat. He’s heard parents tell their children to push another player or “throw an elbow.”

“That’s frustrating,” he said.

CASA coach Genci Keja says he loves when parents are invested, but says sometimes a line is crossed.

“I’ve had to intervene a couple times and say to the parent, ‘no, stop … let me coach,” Keja said.

Keja also has a rule for parents that if they want to talk to him after a game, they must wait 48 hours to do so to cool off. They must also have the conversation in person.

“Email is sometimes not the best,” Keja said. “I prefer a phone call or face-to-face conversation.”

Dr. Melissa Brown with UPMC Pinnacle likes that idea because it sets limits for parents. She says poor sideline behavior can teach kids that it’s okay to yell at authority figures or be rude. It can also embarrass kids and set unrealistic goals, she says.

“It also says that winning is everything and there’s no lessons to be learned in losing,” Dr. Brown said. “And there certainly are. And it makes it harder for kids to deal with failure in the future.”

Devine says youth sports have become a different culture in this day and age.

“Sometimes I just like to remove myself and sit toward the end of the sidelines, so I can just enjoy the game and not get caught up in the drama on the sidelines with the other parents,” he said.

Another issue is parents working their children up before a game to the point where they can sometimes become physically ill. Other times, parents will over-analyze the performance after the game. Dr. Brown says you can always ask your child how they feel they performed and open a discussion. She advises you should take their lead and simply be there to listen.

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