Top 10 Tips to Being a Great Sports Parent

The benefit of introducing your kids to youth sports at an early age is about building athleticism, coordination and self-confidence while learning sport fundamentals. It happens when the coach, parent and child have the same goals: to have fun while learning new skills. You are a three-way partnership and here are some tips to achieve that goal.


1. The journey starts with cooperative play:  
The early stages of sports development starts with cooperative play. It’s about making sure kids have a fun, fair and safe experience. Success is based on effort and the results will happen as sports fundamentals grow. The people you play with are “partners” rather than “opponents.” Cheer for good performances regardless of the color of the child’s jersey.  

2) The focus of the sport experience is improvement: Once effort is in place, the next step is to work on improvement. Help your child set goals of striving to be better at each practice and game. Children should be encouraged to compete against their own potential rather than using a teammate of friend as the barometer of success. When your child has this focus, fun and friendships are likely to follow.

3) Establish personal definitions of success: The main point of playing youth sports is because it’s fun. The secondary purpose is to develop athleticism and life skills using the sport as the medium. The key is to distance your child from thinking about “wins” and “losses” and talk about feelings of fun and joy. Instead focus on or two areas of improvement that have already happened.


4) Parents are cheerleaders, not coaches: Your role as caregiver of a young athlete is to cheer from the sidelines. Being a support system, regardless of the results, is the best approach. Allow the coach to do his/her job, and you provide the smiles and hugs, and possibly and celebratory ice cream cone after games and matches.

5) Kids learn best in play-based formats: Sports participation should be an all-inclusive mental, physical and emotional experience with almost continuous action. For example, in soccer, almost every child comes to practice with a ball. In tennis, kids should be rallying at the same time. This grows the love of the sport. Avoid sport situations where there is too much standing around and waiting to play. A parent’s duty is to find healthy “all- play” environments.  


6) Allow kids to own their sport: When your child plays sports, it is his or her experience vs. a we or our adventure. Guard your thoughts and language so you are not taking part ownership of the sport. This can lead to later pressure and expectations so be sure kids are playing due to the love of the game.


7) Keep sports talk to the sports field. When the game is over, so is the discussion. The only question that needs to be asked is “Did you have fun?” Then, it’s on to other life events like homework, dinner and school. This will prevent kids from thinking they will only be loved if they win. Playing sports is a small part of life and that message should be clear.  


8) The goal of playing sports is to develop a positive self-image: Athletes of all ages and levels perform in relation to how they perceive themselves.  Positivity and confidences produces strong performances. Negativity and fear breeds insecurity. So to build a happy and upbeat mindset, sports talk needs to stay upbeat. Help your child to feel good about whatever happened on the field or court, regardless of the score.


9) Stress the process, not the results. The ability to perform under pressure is built on focusing on playing in the moment. That means doing the process one step at a time.  Strong performances happen when athletes do all of the little things right. Results based thinking tends to stunt an athlete’s potential because it is futuristic thinking. So if you want your child to have a great experiences stress learning skills and enjoy the act of playing.


10) Avoid expectations and appreciate reality. The idea of becoming a professional athlete is a tempting career goal for kids but it is not reality for most. Establish a balance between supporting a child’s dreams and encouraging realistic goals is the solution. This can be done by taking things one step at a time and celebrating each milestone where ever the sports journey takes your child.