Sports dads do not all do things the same way. Studies show that many of them are “softies” when it comes to their girls. But youth sports also shows us that many of them are very hard on their girls.
A few weeks ago, a dad on my daughter’s varsity softball team (she’s one of the coaches) harshly made his daughter practice her pitching immediately after her team had lost a game pretty badly. As he pushed her to practice, she was in tears.
What makes a sports dad do this? I’m sure the dad loves his daughter, and wants the best for her, but he’s obviously got a twisted view of how to express that love.
If you’re a sports dad of a daughter, here’s the kind of love your daughter needs you to show her, here’s what she needs from you:
- Your unconditional love. Your daughter will make mistakes, disappoint you, and maybe even seem to dislike you for a season, but don’t let her question your love for her. Tell her this often, even if she doesn’t respond.
- Your unwavering belief in her. Even when she doesn’t play her best, she needs to know that you still belief in her, that you still believe she has the capability, that one bad game, or even several bad games do not define her as an athlete.
- Your tough love. As one sports dad puts it, “Teach her how to do a real push up.” Challenge her to be her best, to work harder, and then show her how it’s done. My husband introduced my two athlete daughters to the weight room and instilled in them the need for hard work. And it shows: today, as young adults in their careers, they are both avid and competitive cross-fitters.
- Your physical presence. As much as you can, be at her games. I knew one dad who went to all of his sons’ games and rarely made it to his daughter’s. What kind of message does that send? Your presence–minus the sideline coaching–communicates your support for her and what she loves to do.
- Your personal attention. For almost 30 years, my husband has made it a practice to date his two daughters. And he’s still doing it, even though they are 24 and 30, and one is married. Dating your daughter shows her how she should be treated. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be a bike ride together, or a trip for an icee or frozen yogurt.
- Your protection, but not your micro-managing. Your daughter should always know that Dad is there to protect her if anyone should try to hurt or harm her. But she does not need you to micro-manage her friendships, relationships with her coaches and her sports battles.
- Your help when she asks. When she comes with a problem she’s having in sports, or when she can’t figure out her hitting struggles and she asks for your help, give her the help she needs. Make it a priority! But let her come to you; don’t make it a habit to coach her in the car, at home, or at dinner, when she doesn’t ask.
- Your daddy’s heart. Recent studies state that girls who share a bond with their father are emotionally and physically healthier than those girls who don’t. A healthy relationship between Dad and daughter will have a huge impact on a young girl’s entire life. There’s nothing wrong with being a “daddy’s girl”; we have two of them in our house!
Sports dads, there’s no need to orchestrate your daughter’s sports career or to take it upon yourself to “toughen her up”. She will learn how to be tough if you love her, let her fight her own battles, and let her learn to push herself. Just be her biggest fan and her daddy.