Over the course of the last month my kids have attended softball, volleyball and hockey tryouts for the upcoming sports seasons. While this is a very exciting, yet stressful, time for kids, I did notice some parents actually making the situation worse for their kids:
- A mother telling her daughter not to strike out in tryouts "like she always does..."
- A hockey mom asking if her son can tryout for a lower level team (one at a younger age level) because he "wasn't good enough to play with kids his own age." This was said while her son was standing right next to her.
- A father telling his daughter how lazy and slow she looked on the court during a scrimmage.
In all these situations, I will never forget that embarrassed, dejected look on the kids' faces. The one person who is always supposed to be there for them with words of encouragement had just cut them down at a time when they needed them to be their biggest cheerleader!
As I mentioned in a previous article about , organized sports for children provide an opportunity to learn sports and team skills, as well as stress the importance of working together as a team. And according to Parents for Good Sports, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of young athletes and their families through parent-driven, community-based educational programs, "sports participation can teach valuable, life-lasting lessons about fair play, goal setting, hard work, responsibility, respect, and teamwork...children can learn how to have fun, learn from their mistakes, and win and lose with grace and dignity."
I get it. All parents want their kids to succeed and do the best that they can. But what we as parents have to realize is that our kids are only human and aren't going to be perfect and "on" all the time. We all have bad days, and youth athletes aren't exempt. Resist the urge to tear into them after a not-so-stellar performance. Chances are they already feel bad about themselves, and the coach already pointed out the team's failed efforts. They don't need to hear it from you as well. As they say, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
Gung-ho, over-the-top parents need to stop trying to relive their sports glory days through their children. Just because you scored 30 goals a season or made an all-state team doesn't mean your child is destined for the same greatness. Let them discover their own path along the way. If it isn't the one you had in mind for them, that's OK. The only thing that matters is that they are having fun. When the fun goes away and the sport becomes a chore and something they don't want to do, it may be time to retire their sports gear and give them a break.
Parents for Good Sports recommends the following Seven Habits of Savvy Sports Parents:
- Show Restraint: They resist the temptation to intrude into their childrenʼs lives in sports.
- Support Rather than Promote: They follow their childrenʼs dreams – they donʼt expect them to follow theirs.
- Are Enthusiastic, But Mellow: They learn to relax and enjoy their children in sports.
- Take Advantage of Teachable Moments: They develop effective skills for communicating with their children. They avoid Monologues.
- Are Open To Change: They are committed to changing their mindset so that they are able to develop more expansive ways of relating to sports.
- Collaborate: They establish agreements with their children, their coaches and other parents about the role each is going to play in their childrenʼs team communities.
- Pursue Their Vision of Good Sports: They become active leaders for adapting sport to a vision they have developed to guide their action.
Follow these habits and both you and your athlete are guaranteed to experience and enjoy a great sports season!