Helping your young athlete play his best and be at the top of his game goes way beyond what’s happening on the field, court, green, ice, or in the pool.
It boils down to focus, and the things in your child’s life that distract her from doing her best in sports.
As a parent, you are a key ingredient to helping your child stay focused because you have the ability to do away with a lot of the distractions that keep him from having fun, and subsequently from doing his best.
Focus on your child’s effort, not on ability
This defeats the distraction of performance pressure.
In a study of elementary school children, researchers concluded that telling kids they were smart or good made them less likely to work hard. Instead, tell them that they “worked so hard,” when they succeed. This will make them more likely to take on challenges and actually enjoy them. When your child accomplishes something in youth sports–from scoring goals to hitting home runs–tell him how hard he must have worked to do that. She’ll be scoring even more goals and home runs.
In the same way, if you want to reward your child for a job well done, don’t pay for a goal scored or a touchdown made.
Researchers in a Harvard study involving 18,000 school kids researchers found that paying kids for grades doesn’t work. That’s because although grownups can make the connection (If I work hard today, then I’ll nail the project, get a good year-end review, and get a raise …), kids can’t look that far ahead and make the connection between turning off the TV to study now, and earning $20 by getting an A in social studies later.
However, researchers found that paying kids for the habits that lead to the home runs or the goals is much more effective.
Stop Swooping in for the Rescue
This defeats the distraction of weakmindedness.
This is one of the hardest things for a parent to resist. We all want our kids to make the team, get the starting spot, or even just get off the bench. So, what do we want to do when things don’t look well for our kids? Mom or Dad to the rescue!
There are some very good reasons to resist doing that. By taking over for your child you send a signal that your child doesn’t need to work hard and fight his own battle because you will do it for him. If your long-term goal is to raise an independent adult, fighting your kids’ battles actually hinders that goal and promotes her own weakmindedness.
Instead, let your kid learn how to work hard and achieve success without your help. You can talk with her to see how she might work on things she is struggling with, and let her know you are there if she needs your help, but that she must learn to fight the battles on her own.
This defeats the distraction of uninterested parents.
I’m not saying you have to be the team parent, I’m saying that you need to be a parent who knows what’s going on. Do everything you can to attend the parent meeting at the beginning of the season. Even if you know the coach and have heard his speech many times. I went to so many parent meetings that I could probably have given the coach’s spiel myself! I didn’t go because I needed the information; I went to show support and let my kids know that I wanted to be involved in this important aspect of their lives.
If you can’t make the meeting, then arrange a quick chat with the coach, just to show support and interest.
As much as you can, volunteer to help. Even if it’s in a very small way.
Make Studies a Priority
This defeats the distraction of academic laziness.
No matter how demanding a sport is, your child’s academics should not suffer. Yes, she will feel exhausted after practice or a game, but knowing that her grades must be upheld in order to be able to play will be incentive to make the most of her time.
Encourage your child to have smart study habits. Don’t let h use sports as an excuse for a bad grade. You will only be enabling a lazy attitude when you do that and that laziness will affect every area of his life, including
Know the Rules
This defeats the distraction of “But I didn’t know!”
Schools and leagues should have rules and disciplinary guidelines. Be sure you and your child are familiar with them, as well as with the consequences of infraction. The rules should cover missing practices and games, behavior expectations, dress codes, use of electronic devices, and acceptable language.
Keep the YOUTH in Youth Sports
This defeats the distraction of overly-invested parents.
This is the crux of my entire website. Positive sports parents remember that youth sports is for the kids–for their fun, their development, their growth–NOT for the parents. If you are an overly-invested parent, you are distracting your child from playing at the top of his game.