“Bad Parents” Review: A Lesson in What Not to Do When Your Kid Plays Sports

Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way for this review. It reflects my honest opinions.

If your kids play youth sports, you’ve probably seen plenty of bad sports parent behavior on the sidelines. But have you thought about what goes on at home, in the car, and elsewhere behind the scenes? Sometimes we can all use a lesson in what not to do when our kids play sports.

Last night I sat down and watched the movie Bad Parents. I first heard about this movie from jbm thinks, a sports parenting blog. Being that I often write about youth sports, it piqued my interest.

"Bad Parents" Review

Although I laughed and shook my head numerous times during the movie, there were a few moments that just were over the top. By over the top, I mean so upsetting that I actually turned away and didn’t watch the screen. There was R rated content. It’s definitely not appropriate for kids. Personally I think the movie would have driven its point home without the sexually explicit content, the F word, and the over to the top scenes, but at the same time, in some respects, these scenes serve to show how outrageous sports parents’ behavior can become.

The movie starts off with the soccer board agreeing to split a U8 team into A and B, with the reasoning that the less skilled players will hold the more skilled players back. The key word here is U8…we’re talking 7 year olds! The scary thing about this is that this does happen from time to time. Kids are still developing at these younger years, and it makes absolutely no sense to be splitting them up by A and B at U8. Even later, when the A and B teams have been formed, coaches should be extending the same training, resources and opportunities to each team, because kids do develop at different levels. Just because a kid is on the “B” team when she’s 10 doesn’t mean that’s where she’ll be at age 12. You’ll often find that “B” team players become “A” team players down the road.

That being said, the parents in the movie behaved outrageously. The splitting of the team is the least of it. Although they say over and over again, “it’s about the kids,” clearly it’s about the parents’ egos. The parents are so enamoured with their kids being on the “A” team that they have lost sight of the fact that youth sports are supposed to be fun. The assistant coach’s daughter does not want to be there. She barely plays, so you wonder whether her disinterest is because she doesn’t get much playing time, or rather, is it because she was never interested to begin with? Jenna, the narrator’s daughter, would rather play soccer on the playground with friends than with her team. Less pressure perhaps? Nick, the coach, is so overzealous and arrogant (other words come to mind as well) that you find yourself wondering how any parent could stand to let their child play on his team. For the most part, these parents aren’t people that you’d want to know. My favorite parent was Tracy, Gary’s (assistant coach) wife. I liked her reaction at the beginning of the movie when Gary came home and told her that their daughter had all but secured a spot on the “A” team because he was going to be assistant coaching, but at the end of the movie, she “scored” big with her ability to look at the situation from a more objective place than the rest of the parents.

Check out the trailer:

I won’t tell you how it ends (it’s a dark ending though), but I will say this movie will make you think about what not to do when your kid plays sports.

It will make you think before you yell at a referee, coach, player or another parent from the sidelines.

It will make you think about what you say to your child.

It will make you think about what you say about other children.

It will make you think about what you say to the coach. 

And the bottom line is, that’s the real takeaway here! It’s important that we all think before we speak and remember that it IS about the kids! Let’s not lose sight of the fact that sports should be fun! Here’s to a fun (and civil) sports season!

You can find Bad Parents at Amazon and iTunes.

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Comments

  1. says

    Oh my gosh. I feel like I just lived this in baseball season! How do I innocently recommend that some of the egos, I mean, parents, on my son’s baseball team watch this? Wish me luck!

    • says

      It’s sad isn’t it? I’ve seen some very bad displays of sportsmanship on the sidelines over the years. In fact, I’ve got a guest post swap coming up on this topic as well since the sports season is about to start.

  2. says

    Have not seen it…or I even think heard of it before this post, but will definitely check it out! I love the message of this post…it is so true. It is amazing to me what parents will say to coaches. Yikes!-Ashley

  3. says

    It’s truly appalling to witness some parent sideline behavior. I know it’s easy to get caught up in the moment, but, as you said, youth sports should be all about the kids. Teaching them the skills but more importantly having fun!

    • says

      I think that is where some parents lose sight of what is truly important. Youth sports should be about fun. There shouldn’t be so much pressure that they don’t enjoy themselves. They really all do develop at different rates, so it’s not the end of the world if they’re not on an “A” team when they first start playing travel. And quite honestly, most kids are more interested in having fun than worrying about whether they are “A” or “B.” It’s the parents that create the big “divide.”

  4. says

    Good post Michelle. Though all my kids are raised and I am not involved in organized sports anymore, I’ve experienced a couple of wacky coaches for our kids, including a middle school coach who thought it was OK to show a bunch of 8th grade boys his gun collection! It was a real eye opener that not all parents/coaches have the same definition of “right vs wrong” as I do. On another note, you are the hardest working Blogger I know – your work ethic is motivational!

    • says

      Karen, first off, I want to thank you so much for your kind words about my blogging…I truly appreciate it! We have been pretty lucky in terms of coaches. We’ve only had a few over all these years that I really wish my kids had not had. But it was also a great lesson for them as well in learning how not to behave. I’ve seen plenty of parents (and kids) with poor sportsmanlike behavior too! It can be so upsetting, and you wonder what it does to the kids’ psyche when they are put under so much pressure.

  5. says

    Wonderfully put Michelle! I’m a sports mom and I’m always conscious of my behavior, my reactions and what I say to my children in regards to their (or their teammates) performance. It is about the kids! I’ve been lucky to be teamed up with great teams, coaches and parents. I hope parents take heed to this post. Here’s to a great sports season!

    • says

      I hope so too! Although the parents in this movie were ridiculous (and some beyond ridiculous), I think most of us could improve in one way or another. It’s definitely a movie that will make you think!

  6. says

    My husband used to coach hockey for 7 and 8 year olds. I have never seen adults behave so badly in my life. It got to the point where I had to sit on the other side of the arena to get away from them – it was so disturbing. They abused the coaches as well as their own children. So sad. I wonder where they all are now and how the kids managed – it’s been almost 20 years.

  7. says

    I have yet to see this movie, but having the girls in soccer something tells me I should watch it ASAP. Thanks for sharing Michelle and will say that even before having kids and working with young kids during summers teaching soccer in summer camp, I remember seeing and hearing all sorts of things from parents and others from the sidelines. Still can’t believe some of it years later!

    • says

      Hope you do see it and please let me know your thoughts. We are onDemand, on iTunes, Redbox, Netflix and at Target. It’s inspired by my experiences when my daughter now a college athlete played club soccer. Much of it sadly is true albeit done in a satirical way. That said some of the things I’ve witnessed and heard are more ridiculous than what’s in the film. I love sports and youth sports can be lots of fun, but there was definitely too much drama and too much invested on the parents sidelines. THX!!!

    • says

      I have to say the movie really does make you think. Personally I think every single one of us would do well to really think about all of this! I was at my youngest son’s BMX race tonight and I was thinking about this whole issue…and realized I have never heard a negative parent or have seen any bad sportsmanship whatsoever at any of these races! But when you go to any team sport event, you hear and see plenty of it!

  8. says

    My high school was renowned for basketball (think Hoosiers) and at no point did parents ever get nasty or out of line. Some may say that was because I graduated 20 years ago, but I recently had the chance to attend some basketball games and the parents are just as lively and respectful. I would hope that’s the case at most schools. Crossing fingers.

    • says

      I was never involved in sports till high school and then I ran xc and track. There is never an issue with those sports because its all about time. However I twirled batons competitively when I was younger, and the politics and nastiness left a very bad taste in my mouth. I remember to this day a competiton where I won an event and a mother of one of my competitors went to complain and the final scoring was changed.

  9. says

    My kids never liked sports so I never went through this. Although my daughter was in choir and my son in band, which can still be pretty competitive. You sometimes hear other parents talk abput missed notes, sloppy performance, etc. I think sometimes parents are like this because they weren’t good at something when they were growing up, couple that with the direction society sometimes heads and it just spells disaster.

    • says

      I agree with you. I think a lot of parents feel the need to live vicariously through their children. I competed in xc and track in high school and college, and while I would love for my children to have that experience a college sport because those are my favorite memories, only one is interested in doing so. And that’s ok. But I think all of my children have such a love for sports that they will continue doing something, whether its a club sport or continuing in an adult league of some sort. That’s really the important thing…to find something (whether its sports or something else) that you can enjoy throughout your life.

  10. says

    I always wonder if there is any validity to the sports parent stereotype. I can’t imagine, honestly. I only played sports for a season when I was younger so I never really got a taste of it. It makes sense that parents want to be involved, and they want their child to succeed, but it’s just awful to go so far as to make the game no longer about fun.

    As a sports mom, do you encounter a lot of this type of behavior with other parents? How do you handle it?

    • says

      Yes, unfortunately you see it a lot. My oldest son no longer referees because he said he just was too annoyed by the parents’ nastiness. My daughter turned around during a game last fall where she was refereeing and asked a parent to refrain from speaking negatively about a player on the field. And last spring, when another girl took a swing at her during a game and hit her twice in the back and a foul was called, the girl’s parents were making nasty comments on the sidelines about why it shouldn’t be a foul. I could tell you plenty of stories…some of them are documented in my sports mom section. It really is sad. This movie really makes you think and honestly, none of us is perfect.

  11. says

    Thanks for the very thoughtful review . I know, at times, the film is a little uncomfortable but believed that it was necessary to make my point — btw the provocative content is a metaphor for power or abuse thereof — he’s Nick as in Machiavelli….. :-) I really wanted to hit the message home that you got!!! Soft can be forgettable. It’s supposed to be funny and dark at the same time!!! The board mtg was a real one btw that I was part of….. We all can be THAT Parent or know THAT Parent and its our role as parents to make the experience fun and healthy for our kids….

    • says

      The message definitely hit home! I think we can all learn from it and none of us are perfect. It really is so sad that this is happening in kids sports…whatever happened to just having fun?! I don’t know why parents everywhere are in such a hurry to split the kids up into A and B, especially at 7 and 8 years old. But it’s also the same type of coaches who don’t move kids around on the field, letting them learn other positions, because they are so concerned about winning games. I also love the coaches (NOT) that play their own kid for practically the whole game, and let other kids sit the bench.

  12. says

    I haven’t seen this movie, but I can imagine that they didn’t have to exaggerate too much to make a point. My kids span from college to elementary school so I’ve been there and I am there. I watch the parents of my older son’s friends graduate their kids and lose their identity because they are no longer Football Mom. I never want to be that. I love sports and so do my kids, but they are probably closer to B team than A team in talent. What I want my kids to learn is a life long love of sports and fitness. That won’t happen if I pressure them into doing things they don’t want to do. My husband coaches baseball and football and sits on the board and some of the stories I hear. Some parents have never left high school.

    • says

      Be prepared…some of the scenes are pretty shocking. But it will definitely make you think! It is so sad that this is happening in kids’ sports…it should be about fun, but so much of the time there is negativity, nastiness, and extreme pressure on the kids. How can we expect them to have fun and learn to work together as a team in this type of environment?!

  13. says

    I need to see this! I know I’m horrible but I love me some crude humor, but not for my kiddo, so I see your point.

    Have you ever seen the movie Last House on the Left? It has a very intense forced sex scene. I watched it ON TV last night and basically saw the entire scene. I was beyond shocked. I even had to look away. And last night I decided once my son gets a TV, half of his channels are getting blocked.

    • says

      Personally I think its a good thing for sports parents to watch. Some of the scenes were a bit much for me, but honestly the message is very good. And as Caytha says above, she did it this way to make a point. And she hits it home! I haven’t seen the Last House on the Left. But once I read a book with such a horrible scene in it that I threw the book away. I have never done anything like that before, but I couldn’t stand to have it in my house.

  14. says

    I remember this movie, too! Yes, there were parts in it that made me cringe as well. But it DID portray what somany of these over zealous parents do when their children are involved in sorts. And it isn’t JUST sports where you see this behavior–when my kids were little I saw it at the science fairs, in the school chorus, cheerleading, dance class…..you name it! I called them “stage moms” because they hovered over their kids and wouldn’t give them a chance to think for themselves. They pushed and pushed to get their kid to the top and became belligerent if someone else’s child happen to do better. It was sickening to see and even worse for the kids to see their own parents act that way. Talk about a bad role model…..

    • says

      You wonder what these kids are like when they grow up! My daughter sometimes watches that show Dance Moms and when I happen to be in the room and catch it, I am just appalled. I can’t imagine what those girls will be like in 20 years, knowing what kind of stuff their moms said and did in front of of a national audience.

  15. says

    I’ve always thought sports can bring out the best in people or the worst. I’ve seen both. I know there is a reason my kids aren’t that into sports. My daughter played soccer for years and loved it, but mostly rec. She went to the high school camp for one day this summer and decided it wasn’t for her anymore. Somehow I missed this movie, but I’m sure it’s not too far from the truth in some cases.

  16. says

    I’ve never heard of the movie but I think I might check it out. Our boys have never done a lot of sports but Hunter has big plans for middle school. And, in my long ago life before kids, I coached middle school girls (volleyball, basketball & track) and witnessed plenty of parents with inappropriate reactions to things!!!

    • says

      One of the worst displays of sportsmanship I have ever seen was at a 3rds basketball game. I actually had to get up and go out into the hallway because I could not stand to listen to the dad sitting next to me. The worst part was he had his young elementary school age daughter with him. I wonder what she learned from his outbursts and nasty comments…will she grow up thinking that is ok?

  17. says

    I have not seen this movie but I know exactly what you are talking about! I grew up playing sports and my little brother is actually quite the athlete and watching him play all through high school and now college has been interesting to see the parents and how they act. I actually wrote about one such occurrence on my blog a few months back it was appalling how this mother acted.

    Thank you for sharing this! I will definitely remember this as my kids get older and start playing sports.
    Thanks Michelle!
    Keia

  18. says

    Oh, my friend…you know I am right there with you on the whole dealing with bad parents thing. We are entering football season and it gets so ugly in the stands. This movie is going to be a must see for us over here.

  19. says

    It is so sad that sports become more about the adults sometimes. How could that possibly be fun for the players who are out there playing so hard?

  20. says

    I know from other parents (and other bloggers) that it’s tough going out there!! Thank God my kids are only 4 and I have at least a few more years before I really have to start dealing with this! That trailer looks like a SNL skit! Crazy.

    • says

      The trailer is very tame compared to the movie! But unfortunately a lot of this stuff happens. It’s very sad, really! We would never want our kids to behave like this, but they often learn poor sportsmanship from their parents.

  21. says

    You know I want to check this out. You know how I feel about “bad parents”, it’s ridiculous and I see it creating so much pressure on players. I will let you know when I get a chance to watch it. For it to have such a powerful message, I agree that they could have done without the R rating activity!

    • says

      There is a lot of pressure on the kids…its a wonder that so many of them even continue playing sports! And then to top it off, violence on the sidelines is happening more frequently, bad behavior and sportsmanship seems to becoming more and more common…it’s all very sad.

  22. says

    Will definitely check this out, given the amount of soccer we play over here! I have seen some of the worst parents around (our coach once suggested that we completely avoid talking to another team’s parents as they were notorious for causing conflict and bad situations. And our kids were U9s. Sad). Anyhow, I am also pleased to report some phenomenal parents who support everyone. I will keep them in mind when I see the “over the top behaviour” as I know it will disturb me!

    • says

      I could share some pretty ridiculous stories. My son has stopped refereeing because of the parents…he was very good at ignoring them, but it just got to the point where he couldn’t stand hearing it anymore. My daughter told a parent to stop speaking negatively about a player on the field during a game she was refereeing…she was more mature than the adult! It used to drive my husband crazy when parents would pay their kids for goals when he was coaching, because that doesn’t promote team play. These are mild though compared to some of what I have seen.

  23. says

    I’ve seen this with teaching. The things parents will say and do for that “A” recognition. They don’t see the ersonal qualities and lessons a child can learn and build; they just see their ego and how it will look and sound to others. My girls are only 4 and 1, and I just tell myself constantly don’t be “that” parent. Because those parents in that movie are out there.

    • says

      They are most definitely out there! So many life lessons are learned through sports…it’s sad to see that so many of our kids are learning poor sportsmanship by watching their parents’ behavior.

  24. says

    I would have to look away too! Although I love some of those actors a lot.

    It’s funny because I used to see things like this and think, “I’d never be that insane” but I will be passionate about what my kids do because I’m passionate about them. If they play soccer and I see some of the behavior I hear about, it would set me off for sure. So this does make me think about how it can be and how I want to be when my kids are older. And how I don’t want to stoop to the levels I see in this trailer..

    • says

      The trailer is tame compared to the actual movie too! But the sad thing is so much of it is true…you see it happening. And the worst part is, kids imitate their parents, so they grow up acting the exact same way!

  25. says

    I think I would identify with things in this movie. Unfortunately, having an oldest child who is only 9, I feel like I have lived this movie. Competition cheer was a pressure cooker and while the coaches wanted them to win, and understandably so, it was some of the parents who were unreasonable. When the squad’s pyramid broke during nationals, many were placing blame on one girl for what happened. How do you do that with third graders?

    • says

      Oh that is terrible! I don’t know how you do that with 3rd graders. I don’t know how you do it with any age. Truly, if it’s a team, it’s a team effort. Win or lose. I always tell my kids “did this change your life?” Of course not. No game is that important. When my husband was coaching, he had a girl who when she first started playing goalie would cry if she let a ball in. And my husband told her that it was a team effort and the ball went through the midfield and the defense first…so win or lose, it was a team effort.

  26. says

    My husband just went to his first training session so he can be an assistant coach for my son’s soccer team. They had the “bad parents” discussion and how to handle it. Most of the parents were there for teams in the K-3 age range. It’s crazy how competitive people can get. I hope I don’t have to witness the worst of it on the sidelines.

    • says

      I hope you don’t either, but I will be surprised if you don’t at some point. It’s pretty prevalent. And every time you see it, it’ll be a shocker. The worst part is, the kids learn from their parents.

  27. says

    Want a real lesson in GOOD parenting at sporting events??? Go to a Miracle League baseball game. This national organization offers an opportunity to play baseball for special needs children, teens, and young adults. You will NEVER see poor sportsmanship there. You will see plenty of team support, cooperation, friendship, and enthusiasm. My 17yo daughter with moderate cerebral palsy has been participating in this activity for the last 10 years and it has been amazing. I think ALL kiddos who participate in team sports should be required to volunteer just one hour. What a difference that could make! Check out their website!

  28. says

    This is very interesting. I am not there yet, but I have been to family members sporting events and have seen how INTENSE parents get. wow!

  29. says

    That trailer was plenty for me. Unfortunately I’ve witnessed some of this ridiculous parental behavior, although not to the bribery or sexual favors extent! There’s a fine line between wanting it for your kids and wanting it for yourself. Thanks for sharing, Michelle!

  30. says

    I need to see this movie! As I sit on the sidelines of my son’s football practices and games, I’m constantly shocked (and amused) at what parents do and say. Calm down. It’s not brain surgery. My goodness!

    • says

      The movie definitely makes you think. I’ve been shocked many times as well. But the worst part is so many of these kids will grow up thinking that that’s how they should behave too. Kids learn from us!

  31. says

    That sounds like an interesting movie. My kids are young and aren’t even close to playing organized sports. I thought the only thing I would have to worry about was injuries. I guess I should read a few psychology books in the meantime.

  32. says

    I’ve had some moments that I’m not so proud, but for the most part I’ve behaved. I’m hoping to see the movie…and sincerely hope that I’m not looking in the mirror.

    • says

      I think we all probably have room for some improvement but these parents are over the top. Sadly though, I think most of us will recognize these “types” of people from our sports experiences.

  33. says

    Yikes! Jasmine is a bit too young for sports, but after watching the trailer, I’m terrified. I’ll keep my eyes peeled so I’ll know how NOT to behave during sporting events 😉

    Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      In the end sports should be fun and the kids should be enjoying themselves! So sad that this stuff happens. The trailer is really quite tame compared to the actual movie!

  34. says

    I lived through this for many years as the parent of a baseball/football son and softball/showchoir daughter. The most profound thing I learned on the other end is how few of those so-called superstars actually went on to play sports or perform in college and, later on, in life.

    I loved watching the kids but some of the parents were horrible – though I did make some lifelong friends from the experiences I had as a sports parent.

    • says

      I’ve made some pretty amazing friends as well! And you’re right…very few of these kids go on to play in college or the pros! And besides that, even for those that do, it’s never necessary for parents to behave this way. If it’s meant to be, it’s going to happen either way. You don’t need to climb over other people to get there. Sadly, this stuff happens more often than it should. Thanks for weighing in!

  35. says

    We had an AWFUL year with soccer last season because of parents. And this was U6!! My husband got thrust into the coaching position because the coach’s daughter broke her arm at the first practice. Parents complained to him because he wasn’t drilling the kids enough and “this is a critical year in their skill development.” For 5 year olds! I firmly believe it was just a few parents and not a reflection of the league, but I made the request that we not be on teams with those families again, or else we would not be playing!

    • says

      That is terrible Rabia! We were very lucky with most of our teams. My oldest son’s team and my daughter’s team were very cohesive with many of the parents becoming very good friends as well. However we’ve come across a few parents and coaches over the years that I could have done without as well.

  36. says

    I have not heard about this one either so I really appreciate the info and review. It is horrible what goes on in the name of “we are doing it for the kids” not just in sports but in any after school activity. Thanks so much for a great review!

    • says

      It’s pretty disappointing to see. And then we wonder why the kids grow up and don’t play with the kind of sportsmanship that we’d like to see? I think there is a direct correlation!

  37. says

    Sometimes I think they should just make the parents drop the kids off at the field and just let them play with no interference. You’re right, it has become so much more about the parents. We are in Scouts rather than in sports, but even then you have to deal with so many different personality types and parental pressures, it can definitely be crazy making.

    • says

      That would definitely make sense, but the kids also like to have us watching. It gives them a sense of pride when they can show off their new skills and see that their parents have an interest in what they are doing. It’s sad to watch though. You should see some of the things I catch on camera, since I take all the pictures for my kids’ teams. Sometimes I don’t know until after the game that I got a photo of a deliberate foul. Once I got a picture of one girl pinching another.

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