Just as the players bring many different attributes to the field every soccer game, along the sidelines there are as many varieties of parent. The Soccer Mom. The Screamer. The Wanna-Be Coach. The Coach’s Biggest Fan. The Former Athlete. The DadBro. The list goes on and on…but one parent to watch out for is the one who may have lost perspective and is putting too much pressure on his or her young athlete.
In interviews at the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports with elite junior tennis players, Dr. Larry Lauer of Michigan State University found the athletes felt pressure “well before the parent ever realizes it.”
He identified several indicators that the parent-child relationship to the sport may be skewed:
1. Conversations at home are dominated by sport discussions. Many hours are spent reviewing and breaking down opponents. Or, you tirelessly give your child feedback on her performance.
2. You allow little time for your child to spend time with his friends; social activities are restricted.
3. Education becomes a distant second priority to competition and talent development.
4. Your child is overly nervous about competing especially when you are watching.
5. During stoppages of play your child often looks to you for approval.
6. Arguments between you and your child often are related to sport.
Sharing the Love for Soccer
Do any of these sound familiar? It’s unfortunately easy to slip down this path. Having a child playing development academy soccer is a big commitment of time and resources. You’re a parent, so you want the best for your child. Maybe you see their goals and aspirations as yours and feel vicarious glory when they succeed.
To regain a more healthy perspective on the sport, and shift the dynamic in your parent-child relationship, reconsider the objective of youth sport. Winning shouldn’t be the all-encompassing pursuit. You likely signed your child up for sports to help develop positive characteristics — characteristics that would help your child’s success in the long-term, on and off the field.
Lauer suggested deemphasizing winning, rankings, and trophies in favor of valuing teamwork, leadership, communication, sportsmanship, and hard work.
Another idea is to encourage balance in the athletes’s life. Emphasize the importance of education, social activities, and other hobbies. Sure, you might think that your kid is spending too much time on Xbox, but this can be how they “hang out with friends.” While they’re getting a break, you should take one too. In other words, this is not the time to edit the highlight reels and go over training tapes to determine what you might have missed in person.
Ask other family members to help you identify when you are becoming “that parent.” You might even come up with a phrase that they might say on the sidelines to signal you, without being obvious, that you are taking it too far.
Get more exercise and better sleep. Your ability to modulate your emotions and control angry outbursts will improve with greater physical and mental fitness.
Do something together with your child that isn’t sports-related. Illustrate your unconditional love for your athlete by finding other activities you can do together.
You don’t have to step off entirely (or we certainly hope you’re not that far gone), but try to approach your sport parenting more conscientiously. That’s the best love and support you can give your young athlete.