USU professor studies ways to curb bad parent behavior at youth games


SALT LAKE CITY – Parents misbehaving at youth sporting events is becoming more common across the country 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, researched the lingering problem and addressed the issue as a former athlete and now a parent of young athletes.

His studies show that when parents engage their children in a highly competitive culture and get too involved in their children’s performance, they can often lose perspective and go wild.

The passion for the game can burst out on the pitch in a bad light.

Several parents, players and coaches have been suspended after a fight broke out at a youth football game in Herriman.

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

Dorsch says this aggressive behavior is becoming all too common.

“We cannot separate the experience of parents from the emotions that come with seeing a child play,” 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 for controlling these behaviors.

“So to not embarrass themselves, embarrass their children, and/or somehow ruin the experience for everyone 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 that sports programs communicate clear expectations to parents from the outset.

“Children feel better about their parents’ involvement. They feel less pressure. They feel more motivated and more engaged in the sport,” Dorsch said.

Dorsch says there’s no handbook for parents in the sport, but it’s important that every league has a parent agreement that sets out clear rules, appropriate behavior and penalties if they’re not followed .

To view other youth sports studies, click here.


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