It is important to be supportive and respectful, not only of your child, but also of the others on the team and of the coaches. As a parent, you have the power to help shape your youth athlete’s attitude about sports.
It’s natural to get excited when watching your child play but it is important to keep your emotions in check on game day. Here are some tips to help you:
- Be supportive before the competition even starts. Tell your youth athlete you are proud of him/her, regardless of how well he/she plays.
- Remind them that it’s normal to be nervous and to have fun even when playing hard.
- Let the coaches coach; avoid instructing your child or other players from the sidelines.
- Cheer for good plays and great efforts by both teams.
- When the game ends, set a good example for your child by thanking the officials, coaches, teammates and opposing teams for their efforts.
After following these guidelines, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back! And know that your support role doesn't end there.
Consider these three tips when talking with your children after they compete:
- Talk only when your child is ready. If your youth athlete wants to talk about the game, he/she will bring it up, maybe even on the ride home. If it seems like he/she doesn't feel like talking, respect that. Pushing your child to discuss a game, play-by-play, especially if he/she did not perform well, may turn them off sports and decrease his/her desire to share his/her thoughts with you or ask your opinion.
- Ask open-ended questions. Once the conversation begins, keep it going by asking questions your child can't answer with a simple "yes" or "no." For example, ask, “What did you think was your team’s best play of the game?” and "How did you feel about the close call at first base?"
- Listen carefully. If you're experienced in the sport your child plays, it might be tempting to jump in and share your own stories as they are telling theirs. Be patient; make a conscious effort to listen to what they have to say about their experience. Let your youth athlete take control of the conversation, help them process their thoughts and emotions, and then determine whether or not there's a life lesson you can impart.
Be positive. Remind your child that you are proud of them, especially when the outcome doesn't go their way.
When you support your child before and during a game, and communicate with them effectively after the game, they will not only have a strong mental attitude, but they will also be more coachable, optimistic, and better able to handle the inevitable losses that are part of the youth sports experience.
For more advice and resources to help promote sportsmanship and a more positive youth sports experience to your kids, visit PlayPositive.com.