Times have changed – We need more of the winning sports parent
It is not easy being a winning sports parent these days. The state of youth sports is one of high intensity and go, go, go. Even parents of athletes who have a great perspective, one that does not expect the world of anyone – their child or their child’s coach – has trying times. Just some of the possible issues that the sports parent has to deal with are inadequate coaches, over-intense parents, bullying players, transportation to and from games, and high fees to pay. Anyone of those can be troubling and when more than one pop-up, to be a winning sports parent people have their work cut out for them.
On top of all those, the sports parent has the welfare of their child, which should be their primary consideration of every decision. For parents with more than one child in the youth sports race, the problems compound to the point of affecting their regular family life.
In the effort to help the sports parent to keep things under control, here are some suggestions.
To be a Winning Sports Parent, one should:
- Not make everything the day of games revolve around the athlete or the game. Emphasizing other events that day is important, which serves to show kids that their play is just one aspect of their day and their life.
- Remind children to focus on the long-range goal of improvement, like making the high school team, as opposed to having them feel overwhelming pressure to do well every game.
- Never grill kids about their play immediately after a match. Parents should let the player offer their thoughts about their play first. An initial question like how the team played and whether they enjoyed themselves are OK, though.
- Lead off with a positive statement about the child’s play after the child brings things up. Parents can gain their child’s willingness to discuss things with an encouraging word first, before offering advice.
- Congratulate a player’s effort level and not results, unless the player did not appear to play hard. When players are disappointed but did not play very hard, emphasize that preparation and effort can solve that unhappy feeling.
- Do not offer rewards for playing or doing well. The practice of offering rewards (special dinners, gifts, money, etc.) for good play is a hard to quit path of trouble.
- Remain positive and encouraging. Eventual success, or at the least, contentment comes to players who have supportive, patient and understanding parents.
- Never hesitate to apologize after showing any frustration over a child’s play – “I’m sorry, but I want you to do well,” will help players understand what being a parent is like. Once players feel like they have to play well for their parents to feel good, it is often the beginning of less joy of playing.
- Know the signs of burnout. A change in an athlete’s normal behavior may be the sign that they need a break. Those signs include:
* They seem to anger soon when they used to handle things well.
* Players who were happy about their play in the past, but now they never are.
* They used to like to practice but now rarely want to go.
* The coach they once liked now annoys them and they feel picked on.
* They lose focus soon when they never did before.
* They take losses personally as if it is always their fault.
- Be sure you are not the source of the pressure. Parents often think they are nothing but positive, but they might be placing pressure on a child without realizing it. Pleasing parents with their play is a top priority for kids, so they have enough pressure already. Parents may want to see their child’s demeanor after games that the parents do not attend. Missing games from time to time does not make one a bad parent, and it may help their child mature without having mom and dad there all the time.
Other Tips to be a Winning Sports Parent
- Let kids sulk after games for a reasonable time. Being upset is a sign of caring and adults do not have to step in to try to make everything right all the time, at least, not right away. As long as players do not go overboard with excessive negativity, time to get over their disappointment on their own is a good thing.
- Emphasize the importance of team goals and not individual accomplishments.
- When affordable, give players who want more help the opportunity with additional instruction in the form of camps, clinics, and lessons. Trained coaches may provide the answers and confidence they seek.
- Explain to kids that their coaches mean well and are doing their best, even when the coaches do not seem very good.
- Never blame coaches for their child’s poor play.
- Never confront coaches about a concern in front of the team or right after games. Calling a coach at a later time, after time to think of what you want to say and when tension is not as high, is best.
- Use quiet encouragement in games and cheer for the child’s teammates equally. Games and practices are for the coaches to teach, not your time to do it.
- Have kids be responsible for their gear, talking to coaches about minor things, and practicing at home when coaches ask them to.
- Set a good example by not talking, even whispering, to others when the coach is talking to the team. Not only is that a sign of disrespect, but kids also get the idea that it is OK, too.
- Unless for an injury or an urgent transportation message, do not approach the team dugout during games to speak with your kid.
- Encourage kids to practice more and ask if they want your help but never insist they have to practice when they have no desire to do it.
- Never take losses harder than the players do.
- Not do these to their kids:
Over-Schedule them with activities
b. Over-sport them with two or more sports the same time of year.
c. Over-play one activity by having them specialize or join them in an abundance of leagues, camps, clinics, and lessons in the sport.
- Not tell kids to just “have fun” then constantly tell them how to play, to concentrate more, and play harder. Kids see this that statement as disingenuous soon.
- Always put your child’s feelings first and realize the games are about them, and not you.
As implied above, the times have changed, and the demands on the sports parent are like never before in the history of youth sports. Helping everyone gain and maintain a healthy perspective to be a winning sports parent is paramount. Spreading articles and advice like the above help change the youth sports culture. Even if it converts a few parents to a more child oriented youth sports environment, it is well worth it. With that in mind, please share if so inclined, as you can make a difference. Thank You.
Jack Perconte has dedicated his post-major league baseball career to helping youth. He has taught baseball and softball for the past 27 years. His playing, coaching and parenting stories create better experiences for athletes and parents. Jack has written over a thousand articles on coaching baseball and youth sports. Jack is the author of “The Making of a Hitter” now $5 and “Raising an Athlete.” His third book “Creating a Season to Remember” is in the works. Jack is a featured writer for Baseball the Magazine. You can also find Jack Perconte on YouTube with over 80 fun and innovative baseball instructional videos.