It seems like as soon as kids can walk, we as parents start exploring options for what sport we want to try. From soccer, to baseball, flag football to swimming, it seems there is a league for just about any age now, even if only to introduce them to the idea of the sport. I don’t say this as if it’s a bad thing, but I do believe there are right and wrong ways for parents to encourage extracurricular activities and if done incorrectly, we could be creating some long term problems for our kiddos (and the ones we may coach.) Done correctly and we can build their self esteem, confidence and equip them with skills that will benefit them on and off the court or field.
Here are some tips on how to be a winning parent.
Be Supportive, Don’t Coach. Your role on the team is as a Support player with a capital S! You need to be your child’s best and biggest fan. Win or lose.
Challenge, Don’t Threaten. Many parents directly or indirectly use guilt and threats as a way to “motivate” their child to perform better. Performance studies clearly indicate that while threats may provide short term results, the long term costs in terms of psychological health and performance are devastating. Using fear as a motivator is probably one of the worst dynamics you could set up with your child. Threats take the fun out of performance and directly lead to your child performing terribly. Implicit in a threat, (do this or else!) is your OWN anxiety that you do not believe the child is capable. Communicating this lack of belief, even indirectly is further devastating to the child’s performance. A challenge does not entail loss or negative consequences should the athlete fail. Further, implicit in a challenge is the empowering belief, “I think that you can do it”.
Give your Child the gift of failure. If you really want your child to be as happy and as successful as possible in everything that they do, teach them how to fail. The most successful people in and out of sports do two things differently than everyone else. First, they are more willing to take risks and therefore fail more frequently. Second, they use their failures in a positive way as a source of motivation and feedback to improve.
Help make the sport fun for your child. An easy rule of thumb: If your Child is not enjoying what they are doing or loving it, Investigate! What’s going on that is preventing them from having fun? Is it the coaching? The pressure? Is it you? Keep in mind that being in a highly competitive program does NOT mean that there is no room for fun. The child that continues to play long after the fun is gone will soon become a drop out statistic.
Avoid comparisons and developmental differences. For your child to do his very best she needs to learn to stay within herself. Worrying about how another athlete is doing interferes with her doing this.
and last but not least…
Your child is not his or her performance. Love and encourage them unconditionally.
If you want your child to come out of his youth sports experience feeling good about himself and having a healthy attitude towards sports, then they need our help!
Source: Dr. Alan Goldberg, Competitive Advantage