Remember that, above else, youth sports are supposed to be fun. Do you want your child to win? Of course! But is the world going to come crashing down if they don’t? It’s natural for parents to want their child to excel in everything they do, but you have to be careful to not cross the thin line between supporting and forcing/pushing. It’s hard to have a good time when you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing.
1. Have realistic expectations.
Not every child is a natural born athlete and there is nothing wrong with that! Children learn at different speeds, so while one player might “get it” right away another player is going to need a couple more practices under their belt before they nail a certain skill. It’s important that sports parents set realistic expectations for their youth athletes and celebrate the little victories. Maybe your basketball player won’t make everyone of their free throws during a game, no matter how much they practice at home, but they execute the perfect pick during another play. Celebrate what they get right and keep in mind that youth sports is a journey! Your child might not go pro one day but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a blast playing with their friends right now.
2. Create a “sports free” time at home.
It’s important to make sure sports don’t overshadow the rest of their life. Everyone needs a break from youth sports now and then, especially after a loss. Make the commitment to yourself and your youth athlete that there will always be a “sports free” time at home where they won’t have to relive every play from the previous game. A little breathing room can help clear their head and help them bounce back from a loss.
While it’s important to learn from your mistakes so you can improve for the next time, at some point it can come across as harping on the negative, which can make your athlete start to doubt their abilities. They might get so worried about making a mistake and letting you down they freeze up on the field.
3. Don’t coach from the sidelines.
It’s important that sports parents remember that they are spectators, not the coaches. Your job is to cheer and support your player (and their teammates) not coach from the sidelines. Not only does it undermine the authority of their coach, it actually puts your athlete is an uncomfortable situation. Who are they supposed to listen to? Are you going to be upset if they listen to their coach over you?
4. Watch what you say.
It’s so important for youth athletes to know their parents love them and are proud of them regardless of the score at the end of the day. If you only praise them when their team wins and nitpick over their mistakes (going back to the need for realistic expectations), your child might start to feel like they only way they can make you proud is to be perfect. At the end of the day youth sports is just a game, not life or death. You want them to have fun, make friends and build self-confidence.