Reader questions for the Sports Doc

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent
Dear Dr. Stankovich:

We are part of a youth sport league that is currently examining options of various penalties to dole out to parents who act out aggressively at games. Do you have any advice on how to develop a system that will help?

Dear C.W.:

You are not alone when it comes to leagues addressing the growing issue of parents acting out verbally and/or physically at youth sporting events. I do not have the space needed to give you a very thorough answer in this column, but here are a few things to consider.

First, be sure your league rules are clear and specifically stated so that parents know from the start of the season what is okay behavior and what is not.

Second, you may want to consider a hierarchy of penalties, depending on the incident. For example, a parent who physically attacks someone might be suspended for the rest of the season, whereas a parent who inadvertently screams an obscenity might be viewed in a different light. Obviously neither is acceptable, but you can see how one is more serious than the other.

Finally, any rehabilitation effort should be instructive, not punitive, and every effort should be taken not to exacerbate the situation by embarrassing or humiliating the parent. Remember, in the vast majority of these ugly incidents, the adults regret it the next day. Adding salt to the wound is not the way to go.

Dear Dr. Stankovich:

We would like to someday position our 10-year-old son as an attractive student athlete to college coaches. Do you have any advice on what we can do now?

Dear R.S.:

I think every research study I have ever read will show that the number one reason kids play sports is to have fun, so whatever you do - especially since your child is only 10 - be sure that he is having fun, or else your child may experience youth sport burnout, or possibly even quit the team.

I don't think you have much to be concerned about at this age beyond putting your son in leagues that are equivalent to his abilities. Down the road when he starts high school you can revisit your dreams as a family and then determine which things make the most sense (i.e. specializing in one sport, developing a portfolio to send to college coaches, attending specific sport camps, etc.).

Dear Dr. Stankovich:

We love our daughter's coach and think she is a terrific influence on kids. Do you have any suggestions on how we can have her formally recognized for all the great things she does?

Dear J.L.:

What a wonderful note to receive! I am a big fan of coaches myself, as most of them at the youth level are volunteers and give up a lot of their time to help kids grow and develop through sports (and rarely receive the attention they deserve for it).

Although I do not have any specific ideas about how to formally recognize her efforts, I bet she would be happy to learn how strongly you and other parents feel about the things she does to help the girls on the team. Speak up, speak out, and give her a genuine "thank you." It will make her involvement with the team that much more special.

More resources

Read Dr. Stankovich's new book, Sports Success 360! The book gives coaches, parents and student athletes life strategies for performance and character development.

Dr. Chris Stankovich offers individual athletic counseling and team/league seminars. Read Dr. Stankovich's new book, Sports Success 360. The book gives coaches, parents and student athletes life strategies for performance and character development. Visit for more details.