As manager of his oldest daughter’s travel soccer team, Alex Perdikis has seen it all. He’s seen supportive parents who know how to keep losses in perspective and he’s seen the stuff of nightmares. If you’re a parent of a child who is active in sports, you know how easy it is to fall into the nightmare trap. Here are a few tips to make sure you don’t become the infamous “bad” sports parent.
Nightmares and Sports Don’t Mix
Former long-term coaches Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miller conducted an informal survey of student athlete’s worst memories from their high school and youth sports days. The most common answer was “The ride home with my parents.” Most of these parents were not the typical screamers or second-guessers. Most of them thought they were making constructive comments and suggestions. The problem is, according to Brown that right after the game or competition is exactly the wrong time to talk about improving technique. Children need that time to regroup and distance themselves. It’s also likely that the coach already gave instructional feedback. The ride home from a sporting event should not become a child’s worst memory.
Make It Fun
Sports activities have so many positive benefits. Sports is a great way to learn problem-solving skills, learn to work well with others and develop a spirit of sportsmanship. Many of these positives are obliterated if parents lose focus. Young athletes get more out of their sporting activities if they think of them as fun. They don’t need the pressure that comes from overemphasis on winning. They take their cue from you. If you treat the child differently after a win than a loss, it sends a clear message that winning is more important than doing their best.
Children also follow your example when it comes to the coaching staff. If you criticize coaching decisions, either at the game or at home, the child loses respect for the coach. Children should also see their parents root for the entire team, not just them individually.
It’s very easy for parents to self-identify through their children. Perhaps you had a promising athletic career that was stalled because of injury and you’d like nothing better than to see your child succeed where you fell short. Of course, you want what is best for your child’s future. The problem is that your goals may not be the same as your child’s. Don’t lose sight of your child’s individual wants and talents or assume they are the same as yours.
Be a Parent
Being a parent means supporting and teaching through example. Student athletes have coaches to teach them their game, but parents play a different role. Remaining confident and upbeat during games, avoiding criticism, displaying true sportsmanship, respecting authority and treating others, even those on opposing sides, with kindness is necessary if you want to become an ideal sports parent. Words aren’t enough. You have to be a shining example of acceptable behavior and decorum to teach your child the true life lessons that sports activities provide.