You may not be the ranting sports parent that paces the sidelines or the ballistic mom or dad who corners the coach after a game. but sports parenting mistakes that are much more subtle can be just as damaging or deflating to a child’s character development.
This is not a post to judge. It is a post to help you take a second look at yourself and perhaps ask yourself some very hard questions. Are you guilty of any of these mistakes?
Subtle Sports Parent Missteps
Do you emphasize performance over effort? Your child is not in college or the pros. His stats and his amazing performances should not be your main focus. Your child is learning hard work, discipline, teamwork, and goal achievement. Absolutely celebrate the good games, but don’t let those be the only victories you acknowledge.
Does your child feel pressured to play? This can be an unspoken pressure. Maybe Dad or Mom played the sport and the child feels he must follow suit. Or maybe you have a situation like we did where Dad was a football coach and it could have been expected that our son play football. The best way to be sure you are not making this very subtle mistake is simply to check your own motivation and then communicate to your child that he does not have to play the sport just because you played it or because you coach it. Encourage him to do what he enjoys.
Do you stir up discontent? I will be honest and say that I’ve been guilty of this misstep. It usually looked like this: my child didn’t get the playing time, position or recognition that I felt was deserved, so I’d ask questions or make comments that fed my child’s discontent. In some cases, my child was not bothered by the situation and my remarks planted the seeds of doubt and discontent; in other cases, my comments simply watered what was already starting to grow.
Why didn’t your coach put you in the game in the second half?
I can’t believe your coach treats you like that!
This whole situation is totally unfair!
Stirring up discontent in our children does not help them play better or resolve their frustrations.
Do you take youth sports way too seriously? I guess another way of saying this would be to ask, quite bluntly: do you have a life outside of youth sports? Having a passion is one thing; having an obsession is another. Youth sports is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end, that end being that your kids grow up to be strong, responsible, compassionate adults. If you are infatuated with youth sports to the extent that you talk about little else with your kid, you constantly coach your child to improve his skills, or you get way too upset about your child’s challenges, then my friend, it is time for you to get a life!
Do you commit the sin of omission? Perhaps you’ve heard the terms sins of commission and sins of omission? Sins of commission are bad behaviors that a person does. For sports parents that might be yelling at coaches, being too hard on your kids, cussing at the officials, etc.
Sins of omission, on the other hand, are the things that we do not do, that we should have done. And when it comes to being a sports parent, there’s plenty of opportunity to commit sins of omission. For instance, you don’t tell your kids daily that you love them and are proud of them, even after a bad game. Or maybe you don’t praise your child’s effort after a rough performance, but instead praise him only after a good performance.
Sins of omission are much more subtle because you are not openly doing anything wrong; you are merely not doing what is right.
You may not be yelling at the coach from the bleachers or chewing your child out from the sidelines, but I’ve been around youth sports long enough to know that even the most well-behaved parents–in public that is–can make mistakes that hurt their kids. If you see yourself in any of the above subtleties, it’s not too late to change course.