Parental involvement in sport scenarios

Last updated: 02 Jun 2016 Topics: Parents in sport Inappropriate or concerning behaviour

These outline scenarios of poor parental behaviour can be used by clubs or sports organisations to initiate discussions about the challenges they may face.

Questions you might ask include:

  • How and by whom should this situation be managed and responded to?
  • What policies and processes will apply? 
  • What steps could have been taken (at club, county, region or sport governing body levels) to reduce the likelihood of this situation arising?

The angry parent

Scenario 1

During a match, one parent becomes increasingly vocal in his criticism of his daughter, Sally, and several of her teammates. Sally looks miserable and upset. As her performance deteriorates, her father resorts to verbal abuse and threatens to 'sort her out' if she doesn’t pull herself together.

The team coach intervenes but is then sworn at and threatened with a thumping.

Scenario 2

A match is well underway when a group of parents begin shouting encouragement to their sons to ‘get stuck in’ and ‘let him know you’re there’. This develops into raucous shouts, including ‘break his legs’ and ‘deck him’.

The match does indeed become more physical. When one of the boys is dismissed for punching an opponent, several dads go onto the pitch to remonstrate with and push the young referee.

The interfering parent

Scenario 3

Asif’s father, Hassan, used to play his son’s sport at a county representative level, and seems to see himself very much as the expert and an unofficial (and uninvited) assistant coach.

Asif’s coach finds it difficult to establish his authority in training and during competitions because Hassan constantly chips in with his own thoughts and suggestions, often contradicting the coach’s plans. The team are becoming confused and dispirited.

Scenario 4

As a game wears on, and her son Tom begins to lose, a parent begins to make negative comments about her son’s opponents that can clearly be heard by both players: ‘Come on Tom – you can easily beat him, he’s rubbish.’

As the match continues, her comments become more personal: ‘For God’s sake, Tom, you should knock spots off fatty there.’ The umpire intervenes, but to little effect, and the comments continue until the end of the match.

The pushy parent

Scenario 5

Sue is 14 years old and has been swimming at an elite level since she was 12. Sue’s father has been very involved in enabling her to take part in swimming and has always been vocal in how he has directed her from the poolside. Sue’s coach has noticed for a number of months that she seems lethargic and her interest in swimming is not what it was.

At times, Sue looks unhappy and tearful. Increasingly, Sue’s father is expressing more and more frustration with her openly at the club and before many sessions, Sue’s father takes her to one side and has a firm private word with her. He was heard by several other parents to say: ‘I’ve put a lot of effort into your swimming and you’re not giving it all up now.’

Further information

Visit our parents in sport topic page for help and advice on promoting the positive role parents can play in their child's sport.

Related resources

Promoting positive parental behaviour is a PowerPoint template that clubs and organisations can adapt to suit their audience, event or sport.