There are millions of sports parents in the world today, but how many of could actually be described as great sports parents?
Many sports parents get the job done physically–they get their kids to practice, watch games, wash their kids’ uniforms–but they fall short when it comes to providing healthy emotional support. So I’d say the difference between sports parents and greatsports parents is knowing that who you are is just as important as what you do.
After 21 years of sports parenting, and after many more years of seeing other sports parents in action, I’ve identified 6 things that great sports parents know and do for their kids.
They know that youth sports should be fun and they let themselves enjoy it.
The admonition to “let kids have fun” is preached soundly today by youth sports experts, but I think that advice needs to go a step further. Great sports parents not only recognize that youth sports should be fun for kids, but they also choose to have fun themselves.
Enjoy the journey. Look for the little victories. Don’t take yourself and your child’s game so seriously. Sports parents have a bad habit of spending way too much energy and time on things that simply won’t matter in 10 years. Like the mistake your child made in the game, the minutes your child sat on the bench or the position your child was in the hitting lineup.
This doesn’t come easily or naturally; it often takes discipline to find something worth celebrating. But I promise that you will enjoy the youth sports journey a whole lot more if you do.
They know that mistakes are for learning and they give their kids permission to fail.
Letting your child learn from mistakes is key to their growth. If your child is able to wipe the slate clean and quickly move on from a mistake, he or she will have a better chance of reaching their potential. There’s a good chance you already know this, but have you voiced it to your child? Have you told your child that mistakes are not the end of the world and that he can learn from it and be better because of it?
Or have you made a big deal of mistakes by harping on them and reminding your child not to do “It” again?
How do you give your child permission to fail? You can tell them that if you’d like, but what will speak louder than your words is how you act when they do make a mistake and how you recover from it. If you have a child that is harder on himself that you are, then you may have to be very intentional about saying and showing that mistakes are no big deal; they are opportunities to learn and get better.
But before you convince your child of that, you’ve got to believe it yourself.
They know that success is not given, it’s earned and they let their kids do the hard work.
I once heard that there are five basic steps to success:
With a great attitude.
And do the right things consistently.
Unfortunately, many kids do not understand that success must be earned with loyalty and faithfulness in doing their job. Success is not given to anyone. Success is not owed anyone. Success must be earned.
So, parents, here’s where you come in. Let your kids do the hard work. Let them fight their own battles. If you continually step in to help them, they will never earn the success they want.
They understand that it takes a team, and they model that to their kids by doing their part to help.
As your child plays sports, she is learning that it takes a team to get anything done. Are you modeling that concept to her?
One way to do that is to do your part in volunteering and being part of the support “team.” One parent cannot do it all just as one player cannot play the game alone. As you model teamwork to your child, talk to her about the importance of being on a team. This is just one of many teams she will be on in her life.
Today, her team is playing a sport on the field or court, tomorrow her team will be working together in a business or managing a home.
They recognize the futility of pushing too hard and instead opt to do more listening and asking.
Parents who push their young athletes too hard may find that it backfires in a number of ways: the child wants to quit because he’s burned out, the parent/child relationship deteriorates, or maybe the child just learns to tune you out.
If you really want to help your child succeed, stop pushing so much and start listening and asking more. Let your child talk without jumping down his throat when you disagree with him. Ask questions that help him think through situations and let him learn to come up with his own resolutions.
Gentle nudges are okay, but constant pushing rarely has long-term and healthy results. As Ertheo founder explains: “In my opinion the most important thing for sports parents is to find the right balance between motivating and supporting their kids without trying to live out their own failed dreams through their kids.”
They believe that the bigger picture of youth sports is paramount and they let that drive every sports parenting decision.
What you believe in, drives what you do. Parents, if you believe that your child must score a lot, be on a winning team, get his name in the paper, be a starter, or get a college scholarship to be successful and enjoy youth sports, then that belief will drive every decision you make in youth sports.
But if you believe that youth sports is not all about wins, stats, and college scholarships, that it is an opportunity for your child to learn key lessons that will stay with him for life, then you have bought into the philosophy that the bigger picture of youth sports is what’s important. That belief should drive every sports parenting decision you make.
Let’s be honest, the chances are slim that your child is going to get a full ride scholarship to college and end up in the pros. If you are counting on that and in the process ignoring all the amazing opportunities to help your child learn huge life-impacting lessons, you have missed out on a gold mine.
As you strive to be a great sports parent with these six suggestions, you will find that, not only does your child have a much more enjoyable youth sports experience, you too will enjoy the journey.
This post is sponsored by Ertheo whose mission is to help parents empower their children to become strong and independent, and to provide parents with peace of mind when sending their children off to camp.