Parents of a child athletes can easily get caught up with thrill of watching their children participate and compete in their chosen sport, but some parents – even though they are well-intended – can interfere with their child’s progress by being over zealous in their enthusiasm or in some cases, over-critical or over-analytical of a coach’s style.
Coaches have years of training that prepare them to elicit the best performance from their young athletes. Parents often think they know how to motivate their children, but it is a territory that is best left to the experts.
If you want to be a great ‘sports parent,’ there are ways to be supportive without being a distraction to your child or his/her coach. Your goals should be the same as a good coach – to develop the ‘whole’ athlete by instilling values and modeling virtues. Here are some of the best ways to do this!
- Be a positive role model. Be encouraging – don’t talk disparagingly about competitors or try to ‘second guess’ the coach. Shouting insults or frustrations are counterproductive. Don’t be that kind of parent! By the same token, controversial calls sometimes happen, and when they do – be silent. Be the type of fan your child needs you to be. Remember that children view their parents as their primary example of how to behave.
- Enjoy the moment. Even though you may already be envisioning your child to be the one who stands out among all others, enjoy ‘today’s’ performance. Childhood is short. Don’t lose a precious moment by always looking to the future. Let the coach think about the future. Just enjoy your child’ athletic progress day by day.
- Competition means winning and losing. It’s great to win, but it’s also totally ok to lose. When you encourage your child, be specific. ‘It’s a shame you stumbled during your routine, but your recovery was amazing.’ Losing should fuel the athlete to improve. In that sense, no one loses. A true athlete keeps upping his or her personal best.
- Make sure that your child isn’t trying to live up to your expectations. Meeting his/her own expectations are more important for personal development. Let your child take ownership of his/her goals. Try to refrain from ‘dissecting’ the game or performance afterwards.
- Remember that the coach is your partner in helping your child advance. As long as your coach shares your values, you can best support him/her – and your child – by respecting boundaries and refraining from suggesting other ways to coach.
- Be committed to good sportsmanship. If an opponent delivers a spectacular performance, give him or her support as well by saying something like ‘well done’ from the stands.
- Encourage your child’s academic progress as well. The days of competition will be behind him/her one day, and education is the foundation of his/her future.
- Great sports parents are those who not only support their child athletes during competitions but who also maintain a tone of peace, harmony, balance and a sense of well-being in their homes no matter what the outcome of a competition may be.
- If your child decides to withdraw from competitive sports, don’t display disappointment. Instead, send the message of unconditional love without skipping a beat.
Finally – and I know I mentioned this before – enjoy this stage of your child’s life. Whether or not he or she advances to a champion level is not important. What is important is that he/she is having fun, is increasing his/her self-confidence, and is displaying signs of growing integrity. Cherish the moment. It is fleeting.