We have all seen them; the parent that sits in the stands and yells at officials, makes sour faces when a coach takes their kid out of the game, verbally questions why a coach is calling certain plays, or even yells disparaging comments towards their child’s opponent.
Before actually becoming a parent, it is difficult to understand what this parent is thinking. Why would they act this way, and what good is it doing? However, I think every parent out there can at least understand where this parent is coming from. You may not agree with them or their actions, but you understand.
Most parents have one thing in common; they just want the best for their children. This is what causes some parents to behave the way I just described. The problem is, doing something for the right reasons doesn’t always make it right.
Millions of children across the U.S. participate in youth sports. In fact, according to a study by The Aspen Institute: Project Play in 2017, 69.1 percent of all children ages 6-12 participate in either team or individual sports. That adds up to just over 22 million children in the United States that are playing youth sports. This makes it all the more important for parents to know what they can do to help their children be successful.
Figure 1: Courtesy of The Aspen Institute: Project Play
Here is a list of five things parents can do to become the best youth sports parent. That does not mean the best compared to other parents, but rather the best parent you can be for your child, so that you can help them be as successful as they want to be.
1. Be a Positive Role Model
Your actions will be mirrored by your kids. Be a good role model when your children are watching, whether at a sporting event, practice, or at home watching sports on television with your child. Your child looks up to you, and will behave just like you. If they see you complaining about bad calls, yelling at officials, or questioning the coach, they are going to do the same. Don’t tell them, “do as I say, not as I do”, because that never works. They want to be just like you over anyone else.
2. Know That Winning Isn’t Everything
You want your child to strive for winning, but it is not the most important thing in youth sports. Instead, stress to them that they just need to be competitive. You want them to compete as hard as they can, and if they do, they can be proud of whatever the outcome, and you will be the same. Treat your child the same after a win or loss. You know that you love them unconditionally, but if you act disappointed in the result of a game, they may feel like they let you down. Show your child that you love them the same, win or loss.
3. Consider the Coach Your Teammate
Most coaches treat their players as an extension of their own family. They would never purposefully hurt a member of their family. Coaches are not out to get your kids. If a coach takes your kid out of a game or doesn’t play them very many minutes, he/she probably feels that is what is best for the team at the moment. It is not a personal attack on your child. As a parent, it is your responsibility to support the coach’s decisions, while also supporting your child.
Have a positive outlook on every situation. When your child has a problem with a coach, don’t say “I don’t know what he’s thinking”. Instead, try using it as a life lesson, saying “sometimes things don’t go your way, and you have to work harder to achieve your goals”. This helps both you and the coach, because it results in motivating your child to work harder.
4. Don’t Force Your Child To Work Hard
Far too often, parents want so badly for their child to be successful that they force them to put in extra work outside of their normal practice schedule. Your child wants to put in extra work, do what you can to support that, but let it be their choice. If you force them to do it, it will most likely burn them out, and they will start to hate the sport. However, If they truly love the sport, they will want to work hard at it.
5. Show Support For The Entire Team
Be as proud of your child’s teammates as you are of them. Congratulate other teammates on their successes. This will show your child that the team is the most important thing. It will teach your child to be a good teammate. They will learn to be happy for their teammates when they have success, instead of being jealous.
Youth sports should be about the kids, not the parents. All you can do as a parent is try your best to support your child in whatever they want to do. Your goal should be more about teaching your child to be successful in life than about being successful in sports. If you keep that goal in mind, you will be the best youth sports parent you can be for your child.