Emersonian Alisha Loftin shares this message with all parents who are now entering playoffs for baseball and softball and tournament season for soccer-

Tempers are frayed and there seems to be a lot on the line. I have kids that play both sports and have been through 7 years (or 15 if you count both kids separately) of team play. My sons’ teams have gone to the championship and have also been out in the first round. Thus, I’d like to offer up… A hope for? A covenant for? A Plea for? Golden Rules of? parental behavior.

1. No Bashing. Never, Ever, Ever.
Don’t bash the players, don’t bash the coaches, and don’t bash the parents of your team or the opposing team. Don’t bash the game officials. Don’t bash your kid. Not to your spouse, other parents or coaches or your kids.

Here’s the thing. Our families will be playing against each other and also with each other for a looooong time. We don’t need to start the Hatfields and McCoys on account of Under 13 sports! Moreover, we have all had the experience where we meet the parents and coaches at the beginning of the season and think, “Oh Lord, not THAT parent. I remember when s/he….” Nobody wants to be that parent.

Coaching staff and umpires/referees give up a lot of time for a very little or no money. They do this because they love the sport and they love the kids. Yes, they are going to make bone-head calls. No, we won’t always agree with their plays. But when we say that the umpire “called the whole game against you guys” or when we criticize, especially our own kids, whom we tend to be the hardest on, what we say isn’t necessarily true, it doesn’t support the credo of the Sports Associations (Express or Little League), and doesn’t help our children learn sportsmanship, fair play or love of the game.

2. Let the kids have fun. They are kids! This is a game!
If they are chanting in the dugout, it’s not to rattle your first baseman, its because they are having fun! If they are chasing their shadows on the back line, it’s not because their parents failed to emphasize the serious nature of the game. It’s because they are kids and shadows are fun! If we yell the joy out of the game, what do they learn? That they are no good at sports? That baseball is “just not their game”? That they are not valued for who they are? Those are not lessons I want to teach, I don’t know about you.

3. Encourage good sportsmanship. 
I know, I know; we do. Except when we don’t.

We don’t encourage good sportsmanship when we let our kids get away with a nasty or pouty “good game” after a loss. We don’t encourage sportsmanship when we let them play the blame-game. You know this game; “We would have won, if Johnny hadn’t dropped the ball, had played his position…If the official had called the foul, the strike…If Coach had played Johnny at First Base, me at forward.”

We don’t encourage sportsmanship when we hyper-celebrate a win, a run, or a goal. It’s a game. This is youth sports. Nobody, not high schools, not colleges, not pro scouts, and probably not the kids themselves will look back and say, “remember that one season when you were 9 and you lost to that one team in that game, and that kid was in it?”

When I started writing this, I was, of course, on a holier-than-thou mission. However, as I wrote, of course, I saw myself in these descriptions – and not just the positive ones. I have screeched at my son to get his head in the game and watch the ball. I have lamented many uncalled fouls against my precious baby and questioned the parenting skills of the offender’s mother. I have comforted my son saying it was not his fault his team lost; HE played really well. I admit it, and not proudly. But maybe Ann Landers words can guide us all in the next few weeks. “Is it objectively the truth? Is it helpful? Is it kind? If not, don’t say it.”