There is a fine line between being an involved parent and being a helicopter parent. Probably the biggest difference is that an involved parent still knows when to take a step back and let their child figure it out for themselves. Obviously no parent wants to see their child struggle, be it in sports, school, or any other arena, but sooner or later you’ve got them let your kids fight their own battles! Here’s what one insightful sports dad on LinkedIn had to say about it,
Self esteem, self respect, self discipline, self image all have one thing in common, the word ‘self.’ None can be bought or handed down from a coach or parent. Kids have to develop these life skills by challenging themselves to step out of their comfort zone, facing fear, facing defeat, facing ridicule form piers [sic], coaches and parents.
For better or worse, parents and coaches have a dramatic impact on their kids (understatement of the century!). They learn to walk and talk by mimicking us; they pick up our mannerisms and phrases as they get older, and they come into their own as children and young adults with their own personalities, their own dreams, their own likes and dislikes under our guidance. But no matter how much influence we as parents and coaches may have on kids we are not our kids, nor are they mini copies of us. That “self” that our sports dad refers to is something that everyone has to discover on their own.
Have you ever been told you did a great job on some project but that little voice in your head doesn’t believe it? You have to learn to believe in yourself and your capabilities! Self-esteem comes from knowing you did a good job and seeing the results of your actions (and yeah, a compliment now and then definitely helps!) In youth sports, players are supposed to learn that the more they practice the better they get so they earned their successes. Working hard gets results and good things come to those who give it their all.
But even the best athletes have off days and champions lose games. Youth sports helps teach players that it’s not losing that defines you but what you take away from that experience and how you bounce back. You can give it your all and still come up short. That doesn’t negate the hard work and effort you put in though.
If your child wants to play on a competitive travel team, or has dreams of playing in high school and beyond, sooner or later they will probably have to hunker down and get serious about sports. It might mean going to extra practice time before school or missing out on other extra-curricular activities, but that is their decision to make. They have to decide that they love a particular sport so much that they wouldn’t want to spend their free time any other way. It takes a lot of self-awareness to come to that decision and while parents and coaches can pressure athletes into getting serious the most dedicated players are almost always going to the ones that want to be there.
Obviously we wish every youth athlete would love sports and never stop playing, no matter how far their athletic “career” actually progressed, but if your child is happier playing music or learning how to play chess there is absolutely nothing wrong with that either!
We as parents and coaches are meant to guide our kids and help them achieve their very best. But it should be their very best we celebrate, not the best pushy sports parent.