Parents and Sports when the cheering goes overboard!

Your Life
Dr. Cathleen McGreal
October, 2013

My son told me that he would rather I didn’t attend his baseball games because I get “too loud” when I’m cheering him on. What is the line between support and being one of “those” obnoxious parents?

When our children make comments like this it can be challenging. Is it simply the child showing a heightened sense of awareness of embarrassment over normal parental behavior? Or is there some truth behind the statement? It may be that you are simply a parent and that is enough to embarrass your son. On the other hand, maybe you have pushed the limit.

Review your game day behavior. Do you encourage your son as well as the other members of his team? Are your comments positive? For one game try being a “listener” rather than a “cheerer”. Pay attention to the cheering methods used by other parents. Which seem to work and which are annoying? Are there some parents who bring a smile to everyone’s face when they call out? How does your behavior compare to theirs? What do you find irritating? Parents who put down players or ridicule coaching decisions create a negative, stressful experience.

Be the parent and not the coach. Even if you have extensive experience in a sport, when you are a spectator then be a spectator! Don’t yell out plays to your child. Even if “Hit it out of the park” sounds like a great idea that suggestion can clash with a coach’s suggestion to hit a bunt. Share your expertise by spending recreational time with your son. Go into the backyard and play catch. Hit the batting cages and share some practice time. Spend time listening to why he enjoys baseball and what it is like being part of a team.

Analyze your own motivation. In 2012, Sharon Wheeler published a research study called, The significance of family culture for sports participation. (International Review for the Sociology of Sport) She discussed several parental goals related to children’s participation in sports. Often parents wanted to encourage a healthy lifestyle or help children develop friendships. Some parents wanted to provide experiences that had not been available in their own youth. Many parents who had excelled at sports wanted their children to do so as well. Take the time to explore your own motivation in order to promote healthy involvement with sports for your child.

Bring your concerns to prayer on game days: “Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. ... Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.” (2 Timothy 2:5, 7)


Dr. Cathleen McGreal is a psychology professor and certified spiritual director.