The Sports Parents’ Playbook: A Guide for Youth Sports Fans on the Sidelines

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As a youth sports fan, your task is simple. You’re on the sidelines to support your child and your team. You’re there to be respectful to everyone, competition and officials included. And if you’re like many youth sports fans, you’re also there to supply your team with essentials, ranging from snacks to car rides, and signs to sports tents. Being a youth sports fan isn’t rocket science, but even the best fans among us will benefit from a bit of extra coaching to get it right. Whether you are a parent, an older sibling, a babysitter, or another guardian tasked with the role of “youth sports fan”, there are several steps you can take to ensure that you’re making all the right moves on the sidelines. In this guide, we’ll show you how.

Below, you’ll find the Sports Parents Playbook: a guide to essentials and etiquette for youth sports fans everywhere. Learn what to bring and how to behave, and get expert product tips and other seasoned advice from our event experts here at Extreme Canopy. By the time you’ve finished, you’ll be a pre-season candidate for MVP (most valuable parent). Up your game with our guide, and shop industry-leading sports event equipment here at Extreme Canopy.

Sideline Essentials: What to Bring and What to Leave at Home

Many youth sports fans have responsibilities that other fans don’t. Parents and legal guardians of youth athletes are often tasked with carpooling, snack-packing, and general supplying for their kids’ teams. While these responsibilities are often divvied up evenly, it can be difficult for all parties to know what they need to bring and what they should leave at home. The best way to tackle this problem is to draw up a master list before the season starts. In the sections that follow, we cover all of the essentials: what to bring and what not to leave at home for youth sports events. Start here to get your supplies ready for the upcoming season.

Equipment and Other Essentials for Your Child

As parent or guardian of a youth sports athlete, you’re more than just a fan. You’re the one responsible for ensuring that your child (and maybe some of his or her teammates) arrive at their games prepared. This means making sure that athletes have all of the right equipment and apparel before they walk out the door. Double check which jerseys (home or away) your kids need to wear for the day’s game, and make sure they are dressed for the weather. Lastly, check the team schedule to see if you are responsible for bringing any communal equipment, such as goals, balls, snacks, signs, or even shelter. We’ll dive into the details of a few of those essentials in the following sections.

Snacks

Sports are hard work, especially for growing bodies. Youth athletes need fuel and hydration to stay healthy, recover, and grow. One excellent way to ensure that athletes on your youth sports team are getting the nutrition they need is to pack snacks for the competition. Eating light before and after a competition is a great way to facilitate muscle recovery and bone support. It also helps regulate the body’s metabolism and energy levels. Snacking at halftime can also keep youth athletes feeling great and ready to take on the second half, so be sure to pack small, easy-to-eat snacks for downtime during games. Need snack ideas? Here are a few:

  • Orange slices. Great sources of Vitamin C and natural sugars, easy-to-eat orange slices boost immunity and energy levels.
  • Granola bars. Packable and filled with carbs and protein, granola bars are great for healthy refueling at any sporting event.
  • Bananas. High in potassium and magnesium, bananas support bone, muscle, and heart health. They’re also great for preventing cramps.
  • Muffins. Blueberry, poppyseed, bran, and even chocolate — muffins are a good source of carbs and sugar. In moderation, they make excellent pick-me-ups for kids.
  • Water. The ultimate hydration solution, water is a necessary staple for all sports. Pack several bottles to ensure that your team is always hydrated.

Seating

At some point during at youth sports event, everyone is going to sit. Family, friends, and others on the sidelines may spend the entire competition sitting. Coaches and youth athletes will also likely sit between quarters and halves, as well as right before and after the competition itself. At many youth sports events — especially those held outdoors — seating isn’t always provided. To ensure that you and everyone in your family (including your athlete) have a comfortable place to sit, pack a few comfy camping chairs to take with you to youth sports events. Need to bring seating for the whole team? Check out folding benches, perfect for soccer pitches, baseball dugouts, and other areas where your team may encounter a seating shortage.

Shelter

After seating, shelter is the next thing you should secure ahead of any youth sports competition. Granted, there will be days where no shelter is necessary, but not every outdoor competition will take place at room temperature with partly-cloudy conditions. For those days when the rain pours, the wind howls, or the sun beats down, you and your team need a place to stay protected. You need temporary shelter.

Tents are by far the most popular type of shelter for youth sporting events. Portable, effective, and easy-to-use, tents provide ample coverage and advertising for your team. If you’re a big traveling team with an equally-big parent fanbase, we suggest investing in two tents: one for the team and one for the fans. Some of the most popular sports tents for parents and youth sports teams include instant canopies and inflatable tents. Instant canopies (or “pop-up tents”) feature expandable frames and require little to no assembly. Portable enough to fit into most vehicles, they can be set up on any sideline in seconds. Inflatable tents are also incredibly easy to use and erect. These tents use pressurized air instead of material frames, which makes set up a breeze — literally. Simply turn on the electric pump and stand back. Since inflatable tents don’t use metal for their frames, they can be manufactured in a myriad of creative shapes — great for catching eyes at any youth sports event.

Signage

So, you have your sports equipment. You have your seats. You have your sports pop-up tent. With all of the essentials covered, you need a little something extra to raise spirit. Sports signs are the perfect solution. Portable, reusable, and weatherproof banners and flags are great all-season and all-weather signs you can use year after year to cheer on your team and outshine the opposition from the sidelines. Some of the most popular free standing flags include feather flags, which have a feather-like shape and billow in the wind, and teardrop flags, which have a distinct teardrop shape and a more rigid structure. Popular banners for youth sports events include free standing pod pop banners, shuttle pop banners, and oval pop banners, as well as hangable table top covers and custom vinyl banners. Each of these signage solutions is a great way to raise spirits and make your youth sports team stand out from the rest.

Stuff to Leave at Home

While the list of essentials to bring to a youth sports competition may seem long, the list of stuff to not bring to a youth sports competition is even longer. For most, this list can be quickly compiled with common sense, but there are a few repeat-offenders that bear mentioning. First are audio amplification products. Speakers, PA systems, megaphones, and whistles are big no-nos, as they can disrupt competition and cause headache for everyone. Other things to leave at home include pets, and any harmful substances such as alcohol and cigarettes. Most importantly, it’s imperative to ditch any improper etiquette. Learn how to do just that below.

Sideline Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts

Excellent youth sports etiquette starts and ends on the sidelines. There, youth sports fans are expected to be encouraging, respectful, and helpful whenever assistance is called for. The concept seems simple in principle, but it’s often poorly understood or completely disregarded in practice. Too often, passion and impulse get in the way of proper behavior. This can lead to conflict between fans, headache for officials and coaches, and disappointment for those that matter most: youth athletes. On the opposite end of the spectrum, great sideline etiquette can make a youth sports event exciting and fun for everyone involved. Take the following tips to heart the next time you’re on the sidelines, and make sure that you’re the fan that others will root for.

Cheer (Don’t Coach)

At home, you’re the boss. Your kids are supposed to do what you say. There, they listen and learn from you. On the court or playing field — especially during competitions — you are not the boss. Your kids are supposed to do what their coaches tell them to do. Coaches have expertise that you do not have; they are trained to help youth athletes become better and learn the ins and outs of their sports. Even if you do have expertise, your extra coaching from the sidelines can damage an important process for your child (if it’s heard at all). For youth athletes, a crucial part of youth sports is learning how to communicate with one another, take direction, and implement strategies from those who they may not know as well as they know you. This process is crucial to cultivating interpersonal communication and problem-solving skills. It should not be interrupted by disruptive fan-coaching from the sideline.

Encourage Everyone on Your Team (Not Just Your Child)

To avoid fan-coaching, keep you cheers as positive and general as possible. The goal is to let your child and your child’s team know that you support them without intruding on the coach’s instruction. We’ve emphasized and to highlight another issue that often befalls youth sports fans. Even if you successfully avoid sideline coaching, you may be guilty of only cheering for your child. It’s an easy mistake to make. After all, when you see the light of your life, your biggest responsibility and source of pride, out there on the court or playing field, it’s easy to focus on only him or her. However, this focus can damage team morale. (It can also embarrass your kid.) To keep morale up and be the best fan you can be, allocate your cheers evenly across the team. Cheer for each teammate, and extend compliments to the team as a whole. That way, everyone gets involved and no one gets left out.

Think Before You Speak (Not the Other Way Around)

As a sports fan, you likely know that it is all-too-easy to get heated when watching your favorite teams play. Unfortunately for some youth sports fans, it’s even easier to get heated watching their children play sports. For these fans, there are simply more emotions tied up in watching their own flesh and blood, or their very close friends, compete in any setting. These heightened emotional stakes can increase the risk of unwanted outbursts and other violations of fan etiquette. If you count yourself among the many who are prone to losing their cool during youth sports, there are a number of steps you can take to keep things under control during the next competition you attend.

First, think before you speak. It’s okay to get angry or frustrated, but keep those thoughts in your head during games. If possible, channel them into constructive (but not overly coach-y) cheers for your team. As you think, try to put things into perspective. You are watching a youth sports competition after all. Nothing you see in front of you is life-or-death. Even in the purview of sports, your child’s competition is far from the Olympics. On the off-chance that your child does grow up to be a collegiate or professional athlete, the moments he or she spends in youth competition are for fun and learning. Take the pressure off yourself and your child by maintaining perspective from your spot on the sidelines.

Respect the Referees and the Other Team (They’re Not Your Enemies)

By nature, sports are adversarial. There is always competition. Most of the time, “competition” shows up in the form of “the other team.” Sometimes, it manifests itself through judges, referees, and even sporting event organizers. These entities may pose a challenge to your child (and you, often times), but they are not your enemies. Just like your team, the other team is composed of children. Just like your sidelines, the other team’s sidelines are filled with parents and coaches who want the best for their kids. Everyone is there to learn, grow, and have a good time. This includes event officials and organizers, many of whom are volunteers that are tasked with facilitating safe and friendly competition. Disrespectful comments, outbursts, and generally dismissive behavior do nothing to help the youth sports atmosphere for anyone. Respect the other team by offering constructive comments and claps after a good play or accomplishment, and always shake their hands after the competition. The same goes for referees and event officials. Lead by example, and other parents, youth athletes, and even coaches will follow suit.

Learn the Rules (Nobody Likes an Ignorant Fan)

Sports are more enjoyable to watch when you know what’s going on. To support your child and get a better perspective on his or her particular sport, take the time to learn the rules of the game. This will also make you hit with other parents, many of whom may not know exactly what is going on out on the field or court. Believe it or not, learning the rules will also make you less likely to disagree with coaching decisions of official calls. Before you attend your next youth sports event, take a page out of your child’s playbook and learn the game as a beginner. You’ll be glad you did.

Get More Tips for Sports Parents and Shop Sports Essentials at Extreme Canopy

Want more tips on how to be a great sports parent? Our team at Extreme Canopy is here to help. Contact us to speak with one of our event professionals directly for more information on sporting event essentials, etiquette, and everything else you’ll need to be an MVP on the sidelines. Searching for high-quality flags, banners, and sports tents for parents to bring to your next youth sports event? Your search ends here. Follow the listed links to learn more about the many industry-leading products we design and manufacture, and shop with our team here at Extreme Canopy today!

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