SMS Athletic Handbook

Policy and Procedures Manual

In order for a student to be eligible to participate in any SMS athletic event, a signed copy of the handbook must be documented.

 If you enrolled online, then you have already signed this handbook.  If not, you can electronically sign the SMS Athletic Handbook by clicking here

Athletic Mission Statement of St. Mary’s Catholic School

We at St. Mary’s Catholic School will always work at:


“Guiding students through sports with a focus on always maintaining a healthy mind, body and competitive spirit.”


Athletic Philosophy 


The fundamental philosophy of the SMS Athletic Department is to develop the talents of young men and women through competitive, amateur athletics while maintaining a strong sense of Christian principles and good sportsmanship. The St. Mary’s Catholic School Athletic Program is a Christ-centered program open to school students enrolled in the fifth through eighth grades at St. Mary’s Catholic School and exists for the sole benefit of the children and/or students who participate. All students have the opportunity to participate, focusing on team unity, sportsmanship, skills' development and fun.

The goal of the athletics program is to develop the whole athlete. It is the goal of this program to assist in developing bodies, minds and spiritual beings into strong and contributing members of our society and our Church. Our program teaches our athletes to strive for personal bests and to maximize their contribution and sense of commitment to their team. Teaching the importance of winning vs. losing and how to handle either outcome are secondary goals.

The athletic department of SMS is a vital, contributing part of the total educational system. The rules of the classroom regarding success, desire, integrity and perseverance are applicable during competition. Students who participate in athletics need to have a sense of personal accomplishment, fun and the satisfaction one feels in contributing to a team effort.

Use of School Name

The athletic teams of St. Mary’s Catholic School that participate in the Dallas Parochial League are school sponsored. That means any other team such as the YMCA teams, Select teams, Recreational League, Club and etc. are not school sponsored and are not permitted to use the school name. This also means you cannot go out and buy uniforms with the school name on them.

National Archery in the Schools Program

Copyright © 2012 NASP Archery, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

St. Mary’s Catholic School participates in the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP). All tournaments or practices follow the official guidelines and rules set by this organization.  Archery is available to students in grades 3 through 8. Students in grade 3 may participate in select tournaments.  Students in grades 4 through 8 may participate in all tournaments and after school practices.  

Dallas Parochial League 


St. Mary’s Catholic School participates in the athletic organization serving the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Dallas. This organization, the Dallas Parochial League, hereafter DPL, sets policy and acts as an overall coordinator for the various sporting competitions it offers. DPL’s philosophy and policies are summarized in the following quotation and subsequent paragraphs. In that St. Mary’s is a member school of DPL, it will be the objective of the Athletic Director and the Principal to structure and manage the athletic program at St. Mary’s under this same philosophy and policies.


“An athletic contest is a classroom away from school. The same rules are applicable to success, desire, integrity and perseverance. These are ingredients that are needed in a commitment to excellence philosophy.”


The athletic department of a parochial school system should be a vital, contributing part of the total education system. It should be a working laboratory, where skills of being a team should be experienced.  It is not a “minor league” for college or professional athletics, but rather an educational arm for helping to develop our students into the best citizens of our community that they can be.


The most important purpose or goal of the athletic department should be to develop young men and women, through competitive athletics, to develop their bodies, minds and spiritual beings into strong, contributing members of the society and Church in which we live.  We can do this only if we teach these young men and women to give their best and not be concerned solely with winning and losing.


The object of this league shall be to provide athletic programs with the emphasis on Christian principles and good sportsmanship at the amateur level... to organize and govern competition between teams representing schools of the organization. The league shall exercise such control as is necessary to ensure the safe, healthful, and moral development of the players of the member schools.


DPL’s Emphasis on Athletics for Students, grades 5 through 8


St. Mary’s aligns itself with DPL’s policy regarding the objective or focus of athletic teams. This focus varies depending upon grade level. In general, for all athletic teams comprised of 5th and 6th grade students, the emphasis will be placed on individual and team skills' development. Participation will be encouraged for all who want to play. For all athletic teams comprised of 7th and 8th grade students, participation and skills' development will continue to be emphasized. Additionally, the 7th and 8th grade students will experience the formation of a “competitive” team structure for each sport.


Sports Offered by the DPL



Cheerleading, Cross Country, Drill Team, Football, Volleyball, and a Swim Meet


Boy’s and Girl’s Basketball


Baseball, Softball and Track & Field, Swim Meet

Soccer and Golf Tournaments


Athletic Director

The Athletic Director serves as the link between the DPL and St. Mary’s Catholic School and assumes the day-to-day responsibility of managing the athletic program. The Athletic Director coordinates closely with the Principal on all athletic events and ensures that the athletic program effectively meets the needs of the student body and reflects the intent of the Athletic Philosophy as set forth in this document.

 The responsibilities of the Athletic Director are as follows:

1. Work directly and in close communication with the principal in coordinating the athletic program for students in grades 5-8, those grades involved in the Dallas Parochial League (DPL).

2. Represent the best interest of the school in the Dallas Parochial League and attend all DPL conferences.

3. Supply the DPL with all rosters, entry fees and other requested information in a timely manner.

4. Collect or review background, qualifications and other relevant information collected from coaching candidates; work with Principal through coach selection process.

5. Work closely with each coach in communicating information regarding practice and game schedules, gymnasium availability, certification and /or coach’s clinics, student(s) affected by athletic probation, uniform distribution and return, etc.

6. Act as a liaison between parents and faculty on matters concerning athletic probation; intercede when complaints surface pertaining to a volunteer coach; be open and receptive to suggestions and requests from student athletes, parents and faculty regarding athletic program.

7. Assure that appropriate personnel are on hand for activities requiring use of the school’s gymnasium (scorekeepers, clean-up, security, etc.).

8. Intervene in matters involving undesirable behavior displayed by either an athlete, a coach or parents during scheduled practices, scrimmages or games.



Student Responsibilities

In terms of participation in the athletic program, all students will be strongly encouraged to participate in the athletic program at St. Mary’s. Students will be informed of the registration period for an in-season sport. Should there be a sufficient number of students that sign up for each sport, tryouts will determine which students are placed on the Division I, Division II and Division III teams.  Division I and Division II teams compete at varsity level. For all sports except volleyball & basketball, students interested in playing on the 5th and 6th grade teams will play at the “junior varsity” level, where more emphasis will be placed on individual skills' development. In volleyball and basketball, at the 6th grade level, there will be both a Division I and Division II team, for which tryouts may be necessary, depending upon enrollment.

For those students playing at the varsity level, detailed explanations of the skills to be evaluated during tryouts, as well as other pertinent information regarding the tryout process, will be provided for basketball and volleyball.


As part of the registration process, parents will be requested to sign the registration and athletic waiver forms in addition to attending a required meeting with the coaches. All athletes must have an up-to-date physical on file.

Students participating in the athletic program for any of the DPL sports will receive a team uniform for which they will be held responsible. The Athletic Director will distribute the uniforms to the individual team coaches or players. The student will then return all of the same items, in good condition, at the conclusion of the season. Cost for the restoration or replacement of any uniform items lost or damaged will be the responsibility of the student athlete and his/her parents.

If any student athlete prematurely leaves a team because of scheduling conflicts due to a club/select team or sport not sponsored by DPL or decides to quit due to lack of interest, this student will forfeit the opportunity to play that DPL sport in the following season. In the case of 8th grade students who sign up to participate in any of the DPL sports, they are strongly encouraged to "play out" the season and thereby set an example to the younger students. However, should an 8th grade student decide to quit football, for example, such action may jeopardize this student's participation in future sports, such as basketball, at St. Mary’s .  If there are other circumstances which influence or force a student to quit, the Athletic Director will consider such circumstances and determine how(or if) the policy will be enforced.  

Standards of Behavior for Student Athletes 


Students wishing to participate in the athletic program at St. Mary’s will be expected to conduct themselves in a positive and respectful manner. Any student exhibiting negative behavior, deemed detrimental to the team, will be removed from play during the specific sporting event at which the behavior was observed, as decided by the coach, or suspended from future team participation, as determined by the Athletic Director. Negative behavior includes use of profanity and/or use of offensive words or gestures, or any outright aggressive act directed toward fellow teammates, coach or coaches, the opponent, game officials or parents.  


Good sportsmanship is the key to a good, strong athletic program.  Participating students are expected to develop good sportsmanship skills and exhibit them during all practices and games.

Additionally, student athletes are expected:


• To demonstrate a very high regard for all property, whether it be uniforms, or sports equipment. In terms of the latter, no littering, vandalism, graffiti, or misuse of property or facilities will be permitted.

• To behave like guests when practicing or playing any sporting event at opposing school

   Adhere to the Sportsmanship Code for Players in the DPL Handbook.

Tryout Process


The tryout process pertains primarily to all 6th, 7th and 8th grade students. Upon signing up, students when possible will be given the option to tryout for a Division I team. These tryouts are optional and if a student wishes not to participate in the tryout, he/she will be placed on the Division II or Division III team. Students who tryout and are not selected for a Division I team, will be placed on the Division II or III team. Students who miss the tryout date due to schedule conflicts or out-of-town travel will be placed on a team based on the recommendation of the Athletic Director.  Provisions will be made for those students who miss the tryout due to documented illness or injury.  Under these circumstances, the affected student(s) will be evaluated at one or two practice sessions and subsequently placed on a team, based on the recommendation of the coaches and the Athletic Director.

All tryouts will be run and conducted by the Athletic Director.  The Athletic Director may choose to find an outside expert to provide unbiased input.  Parents may participate in the tryout process with permission from the Athletic Director.  Additionally, when participating in a tryout, students are asked to refrain from wearing apparel that attempts to persuade any evaluator of his/her talent.  Depending upon the number of students who sign up to participate in a sport, the Athletic Director will determine whether to hold a tryout.  If there are not a sufficient number of players to fill two team rosters, all players who signed up will be placed on a single Division I, II or III team based on their athletic ability. There is no limit to the number of Division I, Division II or Division III teams that a school may present to the league.  All divisions are designed to focus on developmental skill and knowledge of the sport.  However, Division I places more emphasis on competition.  



Regarding practice times: All DPL teams or NASP participants have first priority regarding use of the gym. Varsity teams will generally have two (2) 2 hour practices per week-full gym. Junior Varsity teams will receive two (2) 1-hour practices. Practice schedules and times may vary depending on the number of teams needing use of the gym and availability.


If multiple practice times exists for a team the coaches will determine which practice is mandatory.  While it is preferable that all student athletes attend all practices playing time can be affected for missing mandatory practices for an un-excused reason (example my other team had practice, I wanted to go to my friends party).    

Academic Eligibility for Participation in Athletics

Students participating in DPL activities and archery tournaments are required to maintain a minimum grade in each subject area and achieve no less than a satisfactory rating in areas concerning conduct and effort (hereafter, the minimum standards) on the progress report or report card closest to the season/tournament. Archery tournaments affected by eligibility will be determined by the principal in consultation with the Archery coach.

In order to try out or remain eligible for a team or extracurricular activity, a student must be passing each subject area with at least a 70%; maintain an overall 76% (C) average in all subject areas, with no more than one “D” and no “F’s”; and maintain at least an “S” average in conduct.  Failure to comply with any of these criteria will result in a student being ineligible, until grades meet the grading criteria as evidenced on the next grading cycle (progress report or report card).  

An ineligible student will have one week to improve his/her eligibility.  The student must submit a satisfactory report showing progress in raising all grades and unsatisfactory conduct marks. If after one week the student remains ineligible, then the student will not be permitted to attend practices. Each week the student must submit (Wednesday) grade reports via RenWeb to the principal verifying that his/her grades continue to meet the criteria for eligibility.  Reports (RenWeb) must be submitted (email or in person) to the principal by Wednesday of each week prior to 8:15 a.m.  If the student’s grades meet the criteria then the principal will confirm conduct in consultation with the student’s teachers. After this process the student is eligible to participate in games and practices.  If the student fails to submit a report to the principal by Wednesday, he/she will be ineligible to participate in any extracurricular activity, practice, or competition until the next week or the probation period ends.

 Attendance and Eligibility

Students must be in attendance at school between the hours of 10:00am and 3:00pm to be considered eligible to practice or participate in extracurricular activities for that day.  If the activity falls on a day school is not in session, the previous day’s attendance is viewed for eligibility.

It is the parent and student’s responsibility to be aware of and adhere to the above mentioned eligibility policy.


Coaching Philosophy

The coach bears the greatest direct responsibility for sportsmanship.  His/her influence upon the attitudes and behaviors of the players and spectators is unequaled.  A Christian manner of speech and action is expected of all coaches.  It is essential that all coaches subscribe to the values of sportsmanship and teach its principles through word and deed.  Coaches who are selected to represent St. Mary’s Catholic School must reflect the school’s philosophy and policies in making athletics fit into the general school program. To simplify, this means that coaches are to be respectful of the students and must strive to approach practices and game situations focusing on the positive. They should be fair and have an unprejudiced relationship with all team members for every child needs to experience success. Coaches should expect all members to act in a cohesive team manner.  They have the right to expect the athletes to attend every practice.


It is required that coaches have a meeting early with parents to emphasize the Athletic Program philosophy, rules, policies and regulations listed in this handbook.  All coaches are expected to abide by the following guidelines:

      Promotes an atmosphere of positive reinforcement and supportive spirit among teammates

      Makes all necessary arrangements for game day such as notifying players of game time and place,    

      securing scorekeepers and other support.

Relationship with Student Athletes

1. Knows and appreciates each athlete as an individual and recognizes each individual’s contribution to the team effort

2. Uses positive and supportive language; engages in constructive criticism only.

3. Promotes an athlete’s self-esteem and self-discipline


Coaching and Volunteers

 The Athletic Director will coordinate the coach selection process. All coaching applicants are required to submit information, in the form of an application, to the Athletic Director for review. It will be the responsibility of the Athletic Director to make the final decisions regarding all coaching selections.


Any person wishing to volunteer for a coaching position is encouraged to do so. Prior to each seasonal sport, volunteer sign-up sheets will be posted, allowing all who wish to be considered to apply. A copy of the volunteer coach’s application is available in the School office. If there is more than one applicant for a coaching position, the Athletic Director will make the final decision on who will coach the team. No coaches are guaranteed yearly positions. The Athletic Director will evaluate coaches each season.


When selected, each head coach, as well as assistants, will be required to complete a criminal background check, screening test, Safety Environment Training Course and sign the St. Mary’s  Coach’s Guidelines. They will also be asked to attend any prerequisite training or certification programs as recommended by the Athletic Director or the DPL.  Any volunteer with an established or prior criminal record will not be permitted to coach at St. Mary’s Catholic School or in the DPL.


Coaches will be subject to immediate removal for violation of any of the St. Mary’s Coaches’ Guidelines or DPL rules governing coaches or at the sole discretion of the Athletic Director for behavior unbecoming of a coach or inconsistent with student athlete development.


Assistant coaches may be selected by the approved head coach, with final approval from the Athletic Director.  Assistant coaches will be subject to the same qualification criteria, behavior standards, removal procedures and criminal background check requirements. All coaches for St. Mary’s Catholic School must be at least 18 years of age.


Safe Environment Policy

The Diocesan Safe Environment Program states:

            “As Christian adults, we have a moral and legal responsibility and are entrusted

             by God with the spiritual, emotional and physical well being of minors and vulnerable

             adults as they participate in activities within or sponsored by our Diocese. It is our

             responsibility and commitment to provide an environment which is safe and


In order to achieve the above, the diocese has a Safe Environment Program that implements training, screening, background checks and other procedures that are designed to reduce the risk of sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults. Every parish, school and Diocesan agency has the program and each is responsible for program implementation and continuation.”        

For the safety of the student athletes, all coaches and volunteers at SMCS must successfully complete the Diocese of Dallas Safe Environment Program Procedures.  The Athletic Director will communicate and provide all the necessary requirements and forms to coaching/volunteer staff.  

Professional Behavior


1. Reflects the same standards of behavior that are required of student athletes (see Student, Standards of Behavior for Student Athletes) during practices, scrimmages or scheduled events.

2. Provides timely and constructive feedback to student athletes.

3. Strives for self-improvement through participation in certification and training programs.

4. Shall not openly question a referee’s judgment, honesty or integrity and shall refrain from any misconduct constituting Referee Abuse (see definition at the end of this section). Referees are symbols of fair play, integrity and sportsmanship.

5. Shall accept the results of each game, encouraging each child to be gracious in victory and turning defeat into a positive experience by working toward improvement.

6. Supports the philosophies of the school and adheres to the policies of St. Mary’s Catholic School.


Note:  The term "Referee Abuse" means abusive or derogatory conduct of any nature whatsoever directed against a referee including, but not limited to, threats, remarks that carry an implied threat of physical harm, intentional physical contact with a referee, such as grabbing his/her uniform or arm, poking or vandalism directed at the person or property of a referee, the throwing of any object at a referee, and the like.

DPL Appeals

Families may appeal the decision of a referee (e.g. Suspension from a game) with the DPL Board.  The fee is $100 and requires the permission of the principal and Athletic Director.


Medical Emergency Procedure 


The Emergency Medical Procedure covering all Dallas Parochial League activities in which St. Mary’s Catholic School students participate is the step-by-step process described below. This process will go into effect in the event of an illness or injury involving a student athlete while on the campus of St. Mary’s Catholic Community.


Some examples of common emergencies that may occur are:  Diabetic reaction, severe asthmatic attack, nausea, vomiting, laceration or trauma.


It should always be understood that the health and safety of the athlete is the preeminent concern in the event of a medical emergency. Every effort should be made to contact the legal guardian of the athlete as soon as possible to direct the medical care of the individual. If the legal guardian is unavailable, it is the responsibility of the Athletic Director, if present, or coach of the affected athlete to make reasonable decisions regarding treatment.


In the event of a medical emergency, the procedure is as follows:

1. Contact the athlete’s legal guardian.

2. Institute simple first aid such as bandage minor cuts, ice and elevate bruises and strains.

3. Arrange for Emergency Medical Treatment by calling the Sherman Fire Department Medical Emergency  

    number *911*

4. Contact the Athletic Director (903-868-5622) and the Principal (903-893-2127) and leave messages for both individuals.

Gym rules


Following is a list of gym rules that must be followed when using the gymnasium.



FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions)


Q: Can a 4th grader play in the DPL? 

A: No. The DPL is designed for 5th through 8th grades only.


Q: Are there tryouts and for what sports?

A: Yes. Tryouts could be conducted for volleyball and basketball, grades 6th through 8th. Other varsity sports may apply based on the number of students going out for that particular sport.  There are no CUTS!!! 


Q: Who is in charge of running the tryouts?

A: It is the responsibility of the Athletic Director to bring in outside coaches to conduct and oversee the tryout process. If the coaches have a concern regarding a player they may consult the Athletic Director for their recommendation.


Q: Can a non-parent coach an St. Mary’s team?

A: Yes. We are very blessed to have such great parent-volunteer coaches; however, at the Varsity levels we prefer to have a non-parent coach, if qualified.


Q: Where do we get team uniforms?

A: The Athletic Director will distribute uniforms to all players / coaches.   Uniforms must be returned when the season ends or at the direction of the Athletic Director. A fee will be assessed if uniforms are not turned in.  


Q: Are there playing time requirements? 

A: Yes, for 5th and 6th grade levels there is a minimum time amount. However, it is encouraged that all players have the opportunity to participate in all games.


Q: Can a team get bumped from a practice?

A: Yes. In the unlikely event that a DPL game must be scheduled during a practice time, or if there is a school program in the gym, practice would be cancelled.


Q: Who do I talk to if I have a problem with a coach? 

A: First, contact the Athletic Director and make him/her aware of the situation. The Athletic Director will discuss the situation with the coach in order to resolve any conflicts or problems.  If resolution isn't timely, the Principal will be informed by the Athletic Director of the situation.


Q: If I coached last year, do I automatically coach the next year?

A: No. Based on volunteers and coaches evaluations, it will be the Athletic Directors responsibility to choose the coach that will best fulfill the needs of the student athletes.


Q: If a student declines a tryout and then changes their mind are they allowed to participate in the tryout process.

A.  Yes, A student may attend the tryout, no student will be left out.


A Final Note from the Athletic Director


We, at St. Mary’s Catholic School, are very blessed to have a wonderful school and a growing program. We need to take full responsibility for all our actions and represent our school and parish in the best way that we can. I also feel that it is extremely important for parents and students to understand the value of commitment. When a student signs up for a DPL sport, I ask that they give 100% of their time and effort to that sport. It is not fair to coaches and your teammates if you cannot devote time to your team. I would ask that all student athletes be at every practice and show up at every game on time. If students and parents are not willing to make this commitment to their team, they should re-evaluate their sport priorities. By not committing fully to your team, you are failing to be a member of the team, and letting your teammates and coaches down. If you have already committed to play another sport or on another team outside the DPL, and wish to participate on a DPL team, please ensure that you make the DPL your priority.

Sports Fees & Uniforms

St. Mary’s Catholic School officially joined the Dallas Parochial League (DPL) in the 2008-2009 school year.  Every year the school re-enrolls in the DPL, paying a membership fee that offers/organizes many sports with exception to archery.  The membership expense for our size school has been ~$600 plus $550 for each team sport participation (e.g. boy basketball, girls volleyball, etc.) or $25 for each individual sport participation (e.g. cross-country, tennis, etc.). These expenses mainly cover referees and one director’s salary, but do not include equipment and uniforms.

Within these past few years, the majority of expenses have been covered by generous parents from our school.  While we are grateful for such generosity, the school does not want to become dependent upon these blessings. So a plan has been set forth.  

The sport fee is limited to $80 per sport. Mathematically this fee does not cover all costs involved.  The difference is hoped to be gained through concessions at our home games or small fundraisers. Therefore, the school intends to keep each player’s uniform (shorts and top) for the next year. You may find on your monthly statement a uniform deposit fee of $60.  This expense will serve as a reminder that the uniform must be returned to the school when the sport season has ended.  When the uniform is returned, the deposit fee will be credited.  

One of the strategic goals for St. Mary’s is to develop a Booster Club to help support our sports program.  The creation of this committee/organization remains in the planning stage due to the multitude of tasks and projects the school pursues.  I welcome any parent with a strong interest in athletics to step forward and create a sports legacy for our school.  If the sports program were ever to operate financially in the positive, then the school would create scholarships for students based on a structure similar to our tuition assistance process.

Any thoughts, concerns, questions or comments may be communicated with the principal.  The school is pleased with our involvement in the DPL and NASP.  We look forward to active involvement of our parents to make our sports program a success.

In order for a student to be eligible to participate in any SMS athletic event, a signed copy of the handbook must be documented.  

To electronically sign the SMS Athletic Handbook, please click here

What Makes A Nightmare Sports Parent -- And What Makes A Great One

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 8:20 pm

Written by: Steve Henson

Hundreds of college athletes were asked to think back: "What is your worst memory from playing youth and high school sports?"

Their overwhelming response: "The ride home from games with my parents."

The informal survey lasted three decades, initiated by two former longtime coaches who over time became staunch advocates for the player, for the adolescent, for the child. Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miller of Proactive Coaching LLC are devoted to helping adults avoid becoming a nightmare sports parent, speaking at colleges, high schools and youth leagues to more than a million athletes, coaches and parents in the last 12 years.

Those same college athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, that amplified their joy during and after a ballgame.

Their overwhelming response: "I love to watch you play."

There it is, from the mouths of babes who grew up to become college and professional athletes. Whether your child is just beginning T-ball or is a travel-team soccer all-star or survived the cuts for the high school varsity, parents take heed.

The vast majority of dads and moms that make rides home from games miserable for their children do so inadvertently. They aren't stereotypical horrendous sports parents, the ones who scream at referees, loudly second-guess coaches or berate their children. They are well-intentioned folks who can't help but initiate conversation about the contest before the sweat has dried on their child's uniform.

In the moments after a game, win or lose, kids desire distance. They make a rapid transition from athlete back to child. And they’d prefer if parents transitioned from spectator – or in many instances from coach – back to mom and dad. ASAP.

Brown (pictured below at podium), a high school and youth coach near Seattle for more than 30 years, says his research shows young athletes especially enjoy having their grandparents watch them perform.

"Overall, grandparents are more content than parents to simply enjoy watching the child participate," he says. "Kids recognize that."

A grandparent is more likely to offer a smile and a hug, say "I love watching you play," and leave it at that.

Meanwhile a parent might blurt out …

“Why did you swing at that high pitch when we talked about laying off it?"

"Stay focused even when you are on the bench.”

"You didn’t hustle back to your position on defense.”

"You would have won if the ref would have called that obvious foul.”

"Your coach didn't have the best team on the field when it mattered most.”

And on and on.

Sure, an element of truth might be evident in the remarks. But the young athlete doesn’t want to hear it immediately after the game. Not from a parent. Comments that undermine teammates, the coach or even officials run counter to everything the young player is taught. And instructional feedback was likely already mentioned by the coach.

"Let your child bring the game to you if they want to,” Brown says.

Brown and Miller, a longtime coach and college administrator, don't consider themselves experts, but instead use their platform to convey to parents what three generations of young athletes have told them.

"Everything we teach came from me asking players questions," Brown says. "When you have a trusting relationship with kids, you get honest answers. When you listen to young people speak from their heart, they offer a perspective that really resonates.”

So what’s the takeaway for parents?

"Sports is one of few places in a child's life where a parent can say, 'This is your thing,’ ” Miller says. “Athletics is one of the best ways for young people to take risks and deal with failure because the consequences aren’t fatal, they aren’t permanent. We’re talking about a game. So they usually don’t want or need a parent to rescue them when something goes wrong. Once you as a parent are assured the team is a safe environment, release your child to the coach and to the game. That way all successes are theirs, all failures are theirs."

And discussion on the ride home can be about a song on the radio or where to stop for a bite to eat. By the time you pull into the driveway, the relationship ought to have transformed from keenly interested spectator and athlete back to parent and child:

"We loved watching you play. … Now, how about that homework?"


Nearly 75 percent of kids who play organized sports quit by age 13. Some find that their skill level hits a plateau and the game is no longer fun. Others simply discover other interests. But too many promising young athletes turn away from sports because their parents become insufferable.

Even professional athletes can behave inappropriately when it comes to their children. David Beckham was recently ejected from a youth soccer field for questioning an official. New Orleans radio host Bobby Hebert, a former NFL quarterback, publicly dressed down LSU football coach Les Miles after Alabama defeated LSU in the BCS title game last month. Hebert was hardly unbiased: His son had recently lost his starting position at LSU.

Mom or dad, so loving and rational at home, can transform into an ogre at a game. A lot of kids internally reach the conclusion that if they quit the sport, maybe they'll get their dad or mom back.

As a sports parent, this is what you don't want to become. This is what you want to avoid:

Overemphasizing sports at the expense of sportsmanship: The best athletes keep their emotions in check and perform at an even keel, win or lose. Parents demonstrative in showing displeasure during a contest are sending the wrong message. Encouragement is crucial -- especially when things aren’t going well on the field.

Having different goals than your child: Brown and Miller suggest jotting down a list of what you want for your child during their sport season. Your son or daughter can do the same. Vastly different lists are a red flag. Kids generally want to have fun, enjoy time with their friends, improve their skills and win. Parents who write down “getting a scholarship” or “making the All-Star team” probably need to adjust their goals. “Athletes say their parents believe their role on the team is larger than what the athlete knows it to be,” Miller says.

Treating your child differently after a loss than a win: Almost all parents love their children the same regardless of the outcome of a game. Yet often their behavior conveys something else. "Many young athletes indicate that conversations with their parents after a game somehow make them feel as if their value as a person was tied to playing time or winning,” Brown says.

Undermining the coach: Young athletes need a single instructional voice during games. That voice has to be the coach. Kids who listen to their parents yelling instruction from the stands or even glancing at their parents for approval from the field are distracted and can't perform at a peak level. Second-guessing the coach on the ride home is just as insidious.

Living your own athletic dream through your child: A sure sign is the parent taking credit when the child has done well. “We worked on that shot for weeks in the driveway,” or “You did it just like I showed you” Another symptom is when the outcome of a game means more to a parent than to the child. If you as a parent are still depressed by a loss when the child is already off playing with friends, remind yourself that it’s not your career and you have zero control over the outcome.


Let’s hear it for the parents who do it right. In many respects, Brown and Miller say, it’s easier to be an ideal sports parent than a nightmare. “It takes less effort,” Miller says. “Sit back and enjoy.” Here’s what to do:

Cheer everybody on the team, not just your child: Parents should attend as many games as possible and be supportive, yet allow young athletes to find their own solutions. Don’t feel the need to come to their rescue at every crisis. Continue to make positive comments even when the team is struggling.

Model appropriate behavior: Contrary to the old saying, children do as you do, not as you say. When a parent projects poise, control and confidence, the young athlete is likely to do the same. And when a parent doesn’t dwell on a tough loss, the young athlete will be enormously appreciative.

Know what is suitable to discuss with the coach: The mental and physical treatment of your child is absolutely appropriate. So is seeking advice on ways to help your child improve. And if you are concerned about your child’s behavior in the team setting, bring that up with the coach. Taboo topics: Playing time, team strategy, and discussing team members other than your child.

Know your role: Everyone at a game is either a player, a coach, an official or a spectator. “It’s wise to choose only one of those roles at a time,” Brown says. “Some adults have the false impression that by being in a crowd, they become anonymous. People behaving poorly cannot hide.” Here’s a clue: If your child seems embarrassed by you, clean up your act.

Be a good listener and a great encourager: When your child is ready to talk about a game or has a question about the sport, be all ears. Then provide answers while being mindful of avoiding becoming a nightmare sports parent. Above all, be positive. Be your child's biggest fan. "Good athletes learn better when they seek their own answers," Brown says.

And, of course, don’t be sparing with those magic words: "I love watching you play."

-- Steve Henson is a Senior Editor and Writer at Yahoo! Sports. He has four adult children and has coached and officiated youth sports for 30 years.

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