There is no denying that sports are an important part of today’s society. Forbes Magazine has predicted the sports industry will earn over 73.5 billion dollars in 2019. Professional athletes have incredible earning potential and many parents push their child into sports hoping they will be among the best of the best. Many parents will spend thousands of dollars for training and equipment in pursuit of a possible college scholarship or professional contract, often putting undue pressure on their child. If you’ve been to a youth sporting event recently, I am sure you have seen at least one parent pacing the sidelines, yelling at their child, the umpire/referee, the coach, or the players on the other team. As a coach for over 30 years, I have dealt with that parent and as a parent for 20 years I may have been that parent a time or two myself (after all nobody is perfect).
Watching sports can evoke intense emotions in fans and spectators, but these emotions are multiplied by 1000 when you are watching your own child compete. If you’ve ever been an athlete or a coach, it is often hard to “turn off” that part of yourself when watching your own child play. Parents always want the best for their child, but that desire should not come at the expense of the child’s emotional well-being. So how do parents support a child’s athletic endeavors in a positive and productive way?
I have been asked that question many times over my 30+ years of coaching competitive youth and have comprised a list of Do’s and Don’ts for parents.
*DO let your child pick a sport they are passionate about. You may love football, but your child may like tennis better. It is important to support their choice. If your child is passionate about their sport they will work hard to succeed.
*DO get your child the right equipment for the sport they want to play. It is important to not only get them any necessary safety equipment, but also to make sure everything fits properly. It is good for kids to learn about choosing your hockey stick length, the right size baseball bat, or the best golf club for their size.
*DO let the coach do all the coaching. Your job is to be the parent and your child’s biggest fan and cheerleader. Find a coach that clicks with your child and motivates them.
*DO let your child know that it’s ok to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. It is the athlete that learns from those mistakes that will be the most successful.
*DO show respect to the coach, the umpire/referee and other players or competitors. Good sportsmanship isn’t just for the players, but the parents as well. Children take their cues from you, so it is important to acknowledge good playing whether it be your own child or a competitor.
*DON’T try to relive your dreams through your child. This is their journey not yours. You may have fallen short of your dream to be a professional athlete, but that doesn’t mean you push your child toward that dream. Almost 8 million children play sports in the United States but only about 450,000 of them will actual play beyond high school and only a fraction of those will ever realize their dream of playing professionally, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
*DON’T blame the equipment, the coach, or anything else if your child loses. Taking accountability is an important part of sports not to mention an important life skill. While winning is great, an athlete often learns more from losing than they ever will from winning. The only way to learn from your mistakes is to acknowledge that you could have done something better and try to avoid that mistake in the future.
*DON’T ever compare your child to another child. Pointing out your child’s inadequacies only lowers their self-esteem making them feel like they will never be good enough. Remember everyone is on their own path.
*DON’T let your emotions or anxieties show. Children innately want to please their parents. If you look like you’re getting upset or anxious your child will feel that pressure and may try harder to “please” you. Trying harder usually results in a worse performance. If you feel yourself getting anxious try listening to music or focus on taking pictures of your child and/or his team while they play.
At the end of the day sports is about so much more than winning a trophy or being a professional superstar. Sports teaches children about team work, confidence, respect, and accountability which will help them be successful adults. When your child walks off the field, whether he won or lost, give him a hug and always remind him how much you love just watching him play.
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