Your child is super-excited about their new soccer, baseball, basketball or swimming team. There are practices to go to and games (or meets) galore. Maybe it’s the first time that your little athlete has played on a team. Or, maybe they’re an old pro. Whether you’ve got a first-time sports star or a seasoned player, you can help your child to excel by making the most out of their team play. How? Check out what you can do to make sure that your child gets the maximum benefits (and maximum fun!) out of sports play.
Provide Emotional Support
Your child needs a cheerleader. And, that doesn’t just mean on the field. Helping your child to get excited about practice or a game starts at home. Sports bring on a range of emotions. From the pure delight of a win to the anger that a child can feel after a major loss, team play means dealing with feelings. Making the most of your child’s athletic endeavors requires help supporting and understanding their emotional needs.
Celebrate the victories and share in the joyous feelings. But, don’t forget to acknowledge your child’s negative feelings when they lose. This doesn’t mean that you need to indulge poor sportsmanship. Let your child know that it’s perfectly understandable for them to feel a sense of disappointment. Sometimes just being there is enough. Your child comes home from a practice that didn’t go well. What does your sad sports star need right now? A shoulder to cry on or maybe just a hug from mom and dad. You can make a difference, showing your child that it’s okay to be upset and then move on.
You can’t be a cheerleader if you don’t show up. Going to practices (if it’s allowed) and games not only shows your child that you care, but makes it more fun for them. Knowing mom or dad is on the sidelines gives your child the chance to show off. This isn’t in the bragging, “I’m so great” type of show off way. It’s more of the, “Hey mom/dad, look at what I’ve learned” kind of way.
Showing up is only half of the equation. Sitting on the sidelines, texting, checking your Facebook feed or catching up on work emails doesn’t really help your child. Technically, you’re there. But, you’re not present. Being present (that means focusing on your child and the game they’re playing) is an absolute must-do.
Talk It Up
Give your child the chance to talk about practice, training, a game, a meet, a match or whatever part of game play they want to discuss. Think about what you do when your child walks in the door after a long day of school. Most likely you say something like, “How was your day?” or, “Tell me about what you did today.” The same line of questioning should apply to athletics!
When your child comes home from practice or the two of you get into the car after a game, ask a few questions. If you were with your child, skip the, “So, what did you do?” You know what your child did. And if you have to ask, even though you were there, you might as well say, “I wasn’t paying attention, so can you fill me in.” No child wants to hear that. Instead, try a question that’s based on something you saw your child do or something that happened during the game. For example, “Tell me about that goal you scored. What was your plan going in it?”
Whether you’re providing emotional support, cheering your child on, talking about the game after it’s over or just discussing the sport, keep things positive. It’s tempting to point out the negatives. When another child has poor sportsmanship, a coach/parent screams at the kids or there are several unfair calls made by the ref, you may feel like complaining just as much as your child does. But, now is not the time for negative feelings.
Keep a positive attitude. This shows your child that it’s entirely possible to find the good in every not—so-cheer-worthy moment. Let’s say your child’s softball team didn’t score a single run. That’s okay. Let your child know how proud you are of the way they tried and point out that the whole team had fun playing!
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