Sportsmanship in high school athletics

Football on playing field
Closeup of American football on field with yard lines.

Some have claimed that athletics does not build character, but reveals it. There is no doubt that as a 15-year varsity basketball coach, the sport has brought out the best and worst in me. The emotion of the game and the pressure to win can be over-consuming. Through my work as a middle and high school athletic director, I have also seen what athletics has revealed in parents.

 

I would love for parents to unveil their best characteristics as they support their athlete on the field or court. Here are my recommendations for all levels of sports.

 

The first conversation between a parent and the coach needs to be positive and supportive. This can be as simple as a parent approaching a coach after practice and introducing themselves. Thank them for their commitment to coaching and offer any help you can extend to the team.

 

Next, I recommend a parent gets involved. They can help with the concession stand, run the scoreboard, take on the scorebook, supply game treats, and help fundraise. These jobs help the coach in a big way so they can focus on their primary job, coaching. Getting involved is also an excellent way to meet other parents on the team and build camaraderie. Remember that a parent helping or not helping the team will not impact their player’s playing time or position. 

 

While in the stands, cheer for the entire team. Set an example of sportsmanship. Parents and fans should avoid publicly criticizing or blaming a coach, player, or official. There are usually a high number of plays in a single competition. The team that makes the fewest mistakes usually wins. It might not feel like it, but one single play does not determine the game.

 

Expect game officials to make mistakes. If you do so, you will not feel as bad when they make a call you do not like.


A parent’s role does not include offering game strategy or substitution advice. The coach makes those decisions. They practice with the team every day and have a handle on what is best for the team. Coaches make mistakes, and sometimes parents have to agree to disagree with a coach’s decision without an incident. 

 

If a parent has a problem with a coach, they should go to the coach directly. The best resolutions occur when the coach, parent, and player meet in a private setting that is not on a game day. Both sides need to express where they are coming from and listen to one another. If that meeting does not produce a solution, then bring an administrator into the discussion. Once again, playing time and game strategy should never be open to debate. 

 

For varsity parents, encourage your athlete to speak directly to the coach before you, as a parent, get involved. Juniors and Seniors are at the age where they need to be able to handle their situations and express their concerns on their own. 

 

I hope that every parent can show exemplary character throughout their son or daughter’s season. I believe that coaches and parents want the team to succeed and want these athletes to learn life skills along the way.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Community, Outdoors

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