14 Ways Sports Parents Can Greatly Influence Their Young Athletes

Photo Credit: Jim Larrison

Photo Credit: Jim Larrison

Well folks, it getting to be that time of year again when a variety of sports begin: soccer, football, tennis, etc. The start of the fall sports season also signals the involvement of thousands upon thousands of eager little athletes as they take the fields and get ready for action.

Along with these adolescent competitor, will be a host of parents who will either be spectators or coaches. Today’s blog, has to do mainly with the moms, dads, and relatives who will be watching the festivities on the sideline.

Many of you know that I have been a teacher and coach for over 30 years. I have coached and taught at just about every age level throughout my career. It was once said that if a person loves what they do, they never work a day in their life…and you know what? That’s the way I feel..I love what I do.

So, today I decided to share with you (if you are a parent of a young athlete) 14 “keys” that can help parents be a positive influence in their young athletes lives. I found this list from a college basketball coach who got this list from someone else…therefore the author of this list is unknown but very, very good!!

Please feel free to share this list with anyone who you feel could use it!!

Tell your child every time that you watch them play, “I loved watching you play!”: Please think about how that would make you feel! I know that that would make anybody feel great!

Do not soften the blow for your child after a loss: If they lose, teach them not to make excuses, to learn from the loss and move on. Many times the players move from the loss quicker then the parents. We get better through set-backs if we face our challenges head on. It also makes us mentally tougher and resilient…two important life skills.

Do not coach your child: Coaching your child may confuse your child. Allow them to experience how to deal with others. Encourage your child to listen to their coach. The #1 advice I could give a parent is to find a program where you agree with the philosophy of the coach and then allow them to coach. A very simple definition of each person’s role puts it into perspective: Players=Play, Coaches=Coach, Parents=Support, Officials=Officiate. Make sure to play your role well and not someone else’s role.

Teach them to be a part of something greater than themselves: Teach them this by applauding their effort and their ability to be coached. Do not coach them to look to score, “take over” the game, show-off their talent, shoot more, or run-up the score. If you teach them to be “me” players, they will miss the experience of being part of a team. Teamwork teaches humility and makes life work…all players need to learn it.

Do not approach your child’s coach about playing time: Encourage your child to speak with their coach. A coach should be honest with their players about where they stand and what they need to do to improve. Your job is not to approach the coach about playing time. Your child needs to learn to advocate for themselves and learn how to communicate with others. Remember that a player being a valuable member of the team is important…it is not all about playing time. Also, they may be a less experienced player and may need to develop. Many players do not come into their own until their senior year.

Do not compare your child to others, but encourage them to be the best that they can be! If a parent is constantly trying to have their child be better than someone else, the child will always be second best…but if you encourage your child to be the best that they can be and compete to be that way everyday, they will get better and they will reach their potential.

Cheer for all!…AND never speak negatively about your child, another child or a coach: We would not want anyone to speak negatively about our child, so do not speak of someone else’s child in a detrimental manner.

Be Self-Disciplined: Sports can be very emotional…they can bring out the best in us and the worst in us if we are not careful. Keep your emotions under control. Would you want someone yelling at you from the stands? Would you want someone yelling at you from work?

Let it be your child’s experience: In order to do so, we must acknowledge that we cannot control the experience of our child…that’s why it is called an experience. When we experience something we will have good times and bad times, great moments and average plays, we will deal with victory and defeat…allow your child to experience these highs and lows in sport which will allow them to experience the ups and downs of life…if we try to control the experience, our child is not being prepared for life.

Teach them to play for the love of the game (NOT A TROPHY): Teach your child that they are playing for the love of the game, for their teammates, for the love of competition. Think about if you could teach your child to be a great competitor, a great teammate and love what they do…that would be special!! In youth sports, we need to get away from the fact that everyone gets a trophy…if we do, we are teaching them to play for the reward rather then understanding that the reward is playing the game itself.

Focus on process: Sports like life are a process and we need to attack the process everyday to               grow and get better. The process is hard work, knowledge, attitude, perseverance,                                        teamwork, coachability, dealing with success and failure…and winning is the by-product…in sports             and in life!

Enjoy the journey of your child: Any journey we take is bound to have great moments,some bad moments, and some moments that we laugh at….enjoy the journey with your childand do not agonize over every single play, a decision by the coach, a good or bad game by the team or your child. In 25 years, you will wish you were watching your child play…so enjoy the journey!

Be a parent, not a fan: Your child will make mistakes, your child is not always perfect. Teach them when the time is right and make sure to compliment them when needed.

Do not make excuses: “The teacher or coach does not like me” is a familiar excuse…in the end, coaches like children that play hard, are coachable, have a great attitude, show perseverance, are a good teammate, and know how to deal with success and failure in positive ways…the important thing is to teach your child all of these attributes!,

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