Michael Taylor, a California-based gymnastics risk-management consultant, has created a list of dos and don'ts for the mothers and fathers of young athletes.
Don't think of your child's sport participation as an investment for which you want a return.
Offender: Earl Woods
Tiger Woods's father did not so much raise a child as engineer a professional golfer. The former Green Beret used psychological techniques gleaned from his training as a prisoner-of-war interrogator to steel Tiger's nerves. Earl had his young son hitting balls every day after school before the age of 10. While Mr. Woods senior once told Golf Digest his purpose was to raise Tiger as a good person and not a great player, many see in his example the zealous desire to train an athlete who would go on to make millions.
The Globe's Back to School Guide
Don't show negative emotions while you are watching your child at a competition.
Offender: Gun-toting soccer dad
How's this for negative emotions? Last month, a parent allegedly threatened a referee with a gun during an under-13 soccer game in the Greater Toronto Area. While officials have denied the incident took place, parents wouldn't allow their children to play that team. While it's an extreme example, any parent who blows his or her lid is missing the point. "Sometimes if a parent shows frustration or a negative emotion, the child internalizes that and thinks the parent is disappointed or frustrated or angry with the child," Mr. Taylor says.
Don't do anything that will cause your child to be embarrassed.
Offender: Damir Dokic
After tennis player Jelena Dokic told an Australian magazine that her father had physically assaulted her, Mr. Dokic told a Serbian newspaper that he would fire a grenade at the Australian ambassador's car, in Belgrade, unless she forced the magazine to retract his daughter's statements. He was arrested shortly after his comments were published last year. "There's no benefit to it at all," Mr. Taylor says. Causing a child to be embarrassed may simply see them lose interest in the sport altogether.
Don't make enemies of other parents.
Offender: Thomas Junta
In 2002, Mr. Junta was sentenced to six to 10 years in state prison for beating a man to death in a fight that broke out after his son's hockey practice. The two men reportedly started fighting over a rough play during drills. Fighting with other parents should never be an option, Mr. Taylor says. "You want to be a good role model. You don't want to personalize things with another parent because you don't want your child to start personalizing things and getting into an inappropriate competitive spirit with one of his or her competitors."
Don't interfere, in any way, with coaching during competition or practice.
Offender: Park Mi-hee
The mother of ice-skating superstar Kim Yu-na was at the centre of a controversy last month when Canadian skating legend Brian Orser, the girl's coach, blamed the mother for ending his coaching relationship with the 19-year-old Olympic champion. Although skating mothers are said to frequently interfere with coaches, Park Mi-hee is rumoured to be one of the worst offenders. Still, she's not so bad in Mr. Taylor's books. While a parent should never get into a coach's face during practice or competition, it's fine to mutually discuss any issues behind the scenes, he says.Report Typo/Error