Sports Parenting: Janis Meredith Talks About Youth Sports Sympathy Groups Part I

Twenty-eight years as a wife of a coach, and eighteen as a parent of athletes, brings to an individual a wealth of experience and knowledge not readily available to the masses. You just can’t go through that in today’s youth sports culture without learning and gaining valuable, insightful information.

And to merely say that one sees “sports a bit differently, with a view from both sides of the bench” (as Janis does in her bio at, well…that is simply an understatement.

That’s my take on Janis Meredith as I peruse her blog and read what she has available for parents at This holds especially true in her last article at redding, What are sports parenting sympathy groups and why should you avoid them?.

In Janis’ piece, she highlights an all too common practice (these days) of groups of youth sports parents getting together, whether on the sidelines during games or at other times, and negatively assessing coaches, referees, training practices, or what have you. Referring to them as “sympathy groups” she does not hold them in high regard.

Having nothing good to say about them, Janis herself steers clear of these groups and encourages parents (through this piece) to “stop” this undermining behavior. She states:

1.    Sympathy groups do not accomplish anything. They are a waste of time.

Sympathy groups stir up discontent in other parents and in athletes. “Yeah, and you know what he said to my kid?” “Can you believe the way she coaches?”

2.    If you have issues with a coach, then handle it with the coach, not with the other parents. Show your kids the right way to handle conflict.

3.    You are distracting the coach and the team. You think the coach is not aware of the sympathy groups? You think the kids are not in tune with your discontent? Think again. Coaches choose to ignore it because they have a job to do, but they know what’s going on. Kids pick up on it and it feeds their own frustration.

Coming from a sports involvement similar to Ms. Meredith and her husband (athlete, veteran teacher and coach, parent of athletes, etc.), I must agree with her that this “negative” grouping of parents, and discussions that tend to go along with them, do exist. And not only do they exist, but they are quite common, becoming more than just an annoyance.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have personally seen behavior, whether from a sympathy group or individual parent, cause issues for a coach, his or her team, and/or the athlete themselves. Some situations ended with a very good athlete being yanked off a team in the middle of a game, negative statements about training tactics being vocalized in a large group setting during a game, and even behavior (from a parent to a coach) that almost escalated into a physical altercation over player position after a tournament game.

And those are just the more memorable experiences I have been witness to. It would take me some time, and the list would be quite long, if I sifted through the cobwebs of my 40 years of sports memories and jotted all these situations down. Could just about write a book on them.

I would also agree with Janis’ three insightful assessments above, and only add to this that parents who tend to engage in this behavior, many times, become a deterrent to the possible successes, development, and growth of the “team,” and their athletic offspring.

This is to say nothing about the loss of personal growth to their offspring as they themselves can become an extension of their parents’ attitudes and further undermine a coach’s effort.

Is this really what they want?

Don’t miss Part II of Sports Parenting: Janis Meredith’s Talks About Youth Sports Sympathy Groups Part II where I add my own tidbit to this very common youth sports issue. Coming this Friday.


Contact Janis Meredith, at Follow her blog at, or on Facebook at

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