The issue of poor sideline behaviour can be quite a complex one. Before you dig into some of the information below though it's worth reinforcing that the large majority of people attending junior sport do the right thing. They behave respectfully towards coaches, officials and players. They support their kids, they put in countless hours of volunteer work and they make sport a great place to be for everyone. 

Nobody knows how common poor behaviour is! But, many people have witnessed it or seen it in the media. Maybe you've even been part of it? 

We do know that poor sideline behaviour - anything from putting undue pressure on kids to physical violence - has a significant impact on participation. We also know that parents or guardians have a profound impact on kids enjoyment and participation. 

To introduce the topic you can view the presentation from Peter Downs on how parents are excluding kids from sport at the 2016 Diversity and Inclusion on Sport Forum:


For a comprehensive review of parental influence on participation go to the Clearinghouse for Sport and search for Engaging Parents in Sport

You can take a look at the following for a summary of the research and further reading in this area:

  • The importance of parents’ behavior in their children’s enjoyment and motivation in sport, Sanchez-Miguel P, Leo F, Sanchez-Oliva D, Amado D and Garcia-Calvo T, Journal of Human Kinetics, Volume 36 (2013). This research showed that positive support by parents was significantly related to their child’s motivation and enjoyment of sport. Also, children who perceived more pressure from their parents experienced less enjoyment from sport.

  • Raising champions: Have fun, be a good sport, Cleaver D, The New Zealand Herald (10 May 2015). The author has put forward a number of ideas for parents to consider, that may help them be more informed about the nurturing of their children’s sporting talent. 

  • The importance of parents’ behavior in their children’s enjoyment and amotivation in sports,

    Sanchez-Miguel P, Leo F, Samcjez-Oliva D, Amado D and Garcia-Calvo T, Journal of Human Kinetics, Volume 36 (2013). Socialization into sport and physical activity can be considered a modeling process in which family members are powerful role models. This research examined the relationship between parents’ behaviour and their children’s (mean age 12.4 years) enjoyment or amotivation toward their sporting experience. Results showed a positive relationship between parental support and players’ enjoyment. Those players who perceived more pressure from their parents were amotivated (i.e. the child showed a negative or unsatisfactory perception of their experience). These results support the observation that positive parental participation can promote a child’s enjoyment for sport.

  • Winning vs. participation in youth sports: Kids' values and their perception of their parents' attitudes (abstract), Meisterjahn R and Dieffenbach, K, Journal of Youth Sports, Volume 4, Issue 1 (2008). Young athletes report that their own values are strongly correlated with their perception of their parents' attitudes. No significant age or gender group differences were found.

  • Parental behaviors in team sports: how do female athletes want parents to behave?Knight C, Neely K and Holt N, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology Volume 23, Issue 1 (2011). This research suggests that adolescent female athletes prefer that their parents display supportive behavior before games; encouraging behavior during competition; and feedback after competition.

  • Parents in youth sport: what happens after the game? (abstract), Elliott S and Drummond M, Sport, Education and Society, (6 May 2015). While parents possess a great potential to positively influence the sport experience of their child, they can also exert a considerable negative influence by engaging in a range of inappropriate behaviours. This study captured qualitative data from focus groups and individual interviews of 86 parents and children involved in junior Australian football. This research reveals an aspect of the sport-parenting role which can further enhance or undermine the youth sport experience. Specifically, it was found that children prefer different types of parental involvement before, during, and after competitive sport. This can provide insight into the way that parents engage in ‘debriefing’ children's performances to engender a positive and supportive influence. While the concept of sport-parenting receives much attention within the competitive setting, much can be learnt from exploring ‘what happens after the game’.

  • Coaching your own child – The parent-coach, child-player relationship, The Coach Diary, posted online (11 September 2014). As many as 90% of all community volunteer coaches are parents. A number of studies have looked at the parent-coach and child-player relationship, with this research showing both positive and negative results. This article presents a number discussion points that a parent and their child should consider before a decision is made by the parent to coach his/her child. 

  • Sport Parenting – The performance partnership, Goldsmith W, published online (2015). The sporting parent has some important responsibilities within the performance partnership between coach, athlete and parent. A sporting parent, for example, is responsible for helping their child to develop values like honesty, integrity, humility, courage and discipline. A sporting parent can also help their child develop valuable life skills that will help them cope with the demands of sport – time management, getting enough sleep, adequate nutrition, and balancing school work and personal relationships. Most importantly, a sporting parent can provide the one thing that no one else can – unconditional love and support.