USU professor studying ways to limit bad parent behavior at youth games

Sep 26, 2022, 10:42 AM

SALT LAKE CITY — Parents behaving badly at youth sporting events is growing more common across the nation and something we’ve seen play out here in Utah in recent weeks.

Dr. Travis Dorsch, associate professor at Utah State University and founder of the Families in Sport Lab, has been studying the ongoing problem and looked at the issue as a former athlete and now a parent of young athletes.

His studies show that when parents have their kids participate in a highly competitive culture and over involve themselves in their kids’ performance, they can often lose perspective and lash out.

Passion for the game can erupt onfield in a bad light.

Several parents, players and coaches were suspended after a brawl broke out at a youth football game in Herriman.

Ute Conference Football suspends coaches, parents, players after brawl on the field

Dorsch says this aggressive behavior is becoming all too common.

“We can’t divorce the parent experience from the emotions that go along with seeing with having a kid out there performing,” he said.

Dorsch is the founder of the Families in Sports lab. He’s interviewed dozens of parents, athletes and coaches and compiled strategies and tips to keep these behaviors in check.

“So, as not to embarrass themselves, embarrass their children and or kind of ruin the experience for everybody involved,” he said.

Dorsch said parents need to keep a balanced perspective and focus on the potential impact of their behavior on their children and manage their anger. Walk away or count to 10.

He also suggests sports programs communicate clear expectations with parents up front.

“The kids feel better about their parents’ involvement. They feel less pressure. They feel more motivated and more engaged in sports,” Dorsch said.

Dorsch says there’s no manual for parenting in sports, but it’s important that every league have an agreement with parents that spells out clear rules, appropriate behavior and penalties if they are not followed.

For a look at more studies on youth sports, click here.

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USU professor studying ways to limit bad parent behavior at youth games