The following list of practical strategies can help you avoid common mistakes in sports parenting, and aid you in guiding your player into a fun and fulfilling youth sports experience. Remember, we're all on the same team!
They Do Not Live Through Their Children
Many parents today grew up playing sports. They had big dreams of making it to the NHL, MLB, NBA, etc., but for one reason or another it didn't pan out. That is a tough break, but it's more common than not. As parents we need to be able to set that aside when raising a new generation of athletes. We all have hopes for our kids, so it's easy to lose sight of what their goals may be. Being a good sports parent means listening closely to them. Do they want to play in the NFL someday, or do they just want to have fun now? Remind yourself that their dreams may differ from yours. Encourage them to set realistic goals, then show them how to work hard to reach them.
They Remember That a Great Athlete Starts In the Classroom
It is true that participants in sports need to work hard, physical strength and endurance is important. Equally as important is keeping up with grades. Many young athletes wish to attain scholarships to play at their university of choice, but these days, if they don't have a good GPA, even at the high school level, they can find themselves riding the bench, and kissing their college prospects goodbye. Coaches are aware that earning good grades requires discipline, determination, and a sense of responsibility. These are attributes that can prove to be profitable on the field as well. Setting clear expectations on classroom performance, and even disciplining when the mark is missed, is an imperative part of parenting an athlete.
They Teach Good Sportsmanship
The definition of 'sportsmanship' is "fair and generous behavior or treatment of others, especially in a sports contest." When it comes to youth sports, it's more than just about being a gracious when losing, it's being kind, and as the dictionary tells us, 'generous' in our behavior. The best way to teach this to kids is to model it ourselves. Have you heard parents dish out excuses as to why their child didn't hit the ball, or make the shot? Or heard them yell at the Umpire or ref, because surely their child didn't make an error. Even worse, have you heard a parent bash another team because their own team lost? Your children are watching..don't be that parent! Did you know that displaying good sportsmanship is a sign of adequate self esteem? Esteeming yourself highly also translates in esteem for others. Recognizing your efforts even if things don't go as planned has a mirror effect on your opinion of others. Being an example of good sportsmanship in your child's life can have a very positive lifelong impact!
They Let the Coach Be a Coach
Part of the natural process of growing-up is learning to respect authority. Coaches, like teachers, are certainly an authoritative figure in player's lives, and should be treated as such. Honor the coach's decisions, even if you think you can do better. In life as in sports, we may not always agree with those in positions of leadership over us, but we must let them lead. Being a good sports parents means knowing your role as a parent is to let the coach, coach!
They Avoid the Comparison Trap
Comparing ourselves to others is a very normal thing, most of us do it without even thinking about it, and kids are no exception. They can tell how strong another child is. How well he or she can hit the ball, how fast they run. They see it, and so do we. They rely on us parents to be their number one cheerleader, their biggest fan no matter what. They are not mature enough to understand that we can acknowledge another child's talents without diminishing our thoughts on theirs. Remembering that their egos are young and sensitive can go a long way in developing a strong sense of self. As unintentional as it may be, comparing your child to others can truly damage their confidence, but if we remind them that they too have extraordinary gifts and qualities, we can foster a positive self image, and help them to appreciate unique talents in others.
Being a good sports parent is not easy! It takes discipline and the foresight to anticipate potential situations that may damage an athlete's experience. As parents we will surely make mistakes, but knowing what to avoid whenever possible is staying one step ahead of the game. Remember, young athletes need their parents on their team, they can't be successful without YOU!
Have other tips? Leave us a comment below.
About the author:
Barbara is the mom behind the blog. She began writing a craft and lifestyle blog in 2012. As life evolved, and her boys became more involved in sports, she aimed to create a site that would resonate with moms like her, and in 2017 Modern Sports Mom was born. A baseball and football mom, she is fueled by her strong faith, dedication to her family, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee! Barbara lives in beautiful Southern California with her husband, kids, dog, and cat.