I was able to sit down with a few moms last month to talk about the joys and challenges of parenting young athletes. I wanted to share some of what we discussed.
As the parent of a youth athlete, we have many jobs and responsibilities …
But your most important role as parent … CHEERLEADER. ENCOURAGER. SUPPORTER.
We give a LOT of time, energy, and money to provide our kids with the opportunity to play sports. Sometimes I think that is part of what makes us lose our minds … we feel like we are sacrificing and giving of ourselves and when WE don’t get what WE want … we lose it. But the thing to remember here is that it isn’t about what WE want. We make these sacrifices because we know that sports provide some things that our kids NEED.
They need to learn cooperative skills.
They need to learn how to respect authority.
They need to learn that hard work matters.
They need to experience heartache and upset in a safe space … so that they learn how to live through it.
We want them to win. We want them to start. But it isn’t about what we want.
It is about what THEY need.
And the irony here is that the kids who can cooperate, the ones who do respect their coaches and teammates, the ones who know how to work hard, the ones how don’t quit when things get tough … those are the ones who excel and rise to the top at the varsity level.
As parents we don’t need to approach sports asking the question … how can my kids be successful on this 10U team or this 12U team? Who cares? We need to be asking … how can this 10U team or this 12U team help grow my child in to a healthy teenager and eventually a high-functioning adult?
And if you are asking the right questions, your perspective will shift.
You won’t be worried about your child’s starting position. You’ll be more concerned with how your child responds when he doesn’t get what he wants? How does she treat the teammate who has the starting position she wants? And the reverse: how does he child treat the teammate who wants the starting position he has? Does she respond to and respect her coaches?
So, what can we do to help support our children in their athletic journey …
Encourage your child to take risks and give them room (and permission) to make mistakes.
Mistakes are part of life … and sports! Instead of shaming them or trying to correct them, we should acknowledge their courage to try and nudge them to be even more aggressive on the field. Sports are a great, safe place to take risks and make mistakes. A child is well aware of when they make an error; it is a coach’s job to help them fix the problem and important for the athlete to learn from the experience. The worst thing that can happen is a youth athlete becomes timid and scared to take chances.
Talk to your kids about the importance of practice
Perhaps there is no greater opportunity to learn and develop good character than at practice. Developing good work habits and mastering fundamental skills is crucial. Talking about the practice is a good way to emphasize its importance and learn more about what your child is doing. Odds are if your child is practicing hard and properly, the more he or she will shine on game day.
Cheer - don’t coach - on game day
Every parent should cheer for their child when they are playing a game. Cheer loud, cheer soft, be loud, go crazy but make sure you are cheering for the right reasons. If your son or daughter makes a great play, you should cheer. If one of their teammates does something good, you should cheer. Just remember to resist the urge to coach them or give them advice when they are in the middle of a game. That is a coach’s job and if it needs to be corrected, it will most likely be handled at the next practice.
Join us on March 26 at 8:15 a.m. in the upper school lunch room for
some discussion on how to fuel your growing, active athletes.