A parent’s support is so important to kids in sport, and pretty much every kid who plays sports wants their parent’s approval. You want to be the best, to play as well as you can, and to see the look of approval on their face.
When I played great, I knew I was playing great. I’d see the look of pride and the smile on my Mom’s face, and that really boosted my confidence. But when I wasn’t playing at my best or made a mistake during a game, I could see the disappointment on Mom’s face, even though she was trying not to show it. I really felt that I’d let her down and that made my confidence suffer.
You see, most parents want to do the best for their kids, and they believe that they are helping to motivate their kids during games. But what they don't realize is that they could be having a negative impact on their kid’s confidence and on their performance.
Your words and actions have an effect on your child
Pushy sports parents are there on the sideline at every game, match or competition. And what makes it worse is that hardly any of them have got personal experience of competitive sports, but they all feel that they can coach and advise their child.
Your kid might even stop listening to what their coach is saying because they want to please you more than Coach.
This causes mixed messages, confusion and yep, you guessed it, feeling like you’ve let your parents down again. That leads to pre-match nerves, another bad performance, more disappointment and the circle continues. It can even lead to kids giving up sport because they just don’t enjoy it any more.
Nearly every member of my team worried about what their parents were thinking during games, and how they would react on the journey home if they didn't have a good game. And it’s incredibly difficult to focus on the game, to be ‘in the now’, when you’re worrying about the car ride home.
So if you’re a sports parent, how can you help them to enjoy their sport and learn from their mistakes, instead of worrying about the post-game analysis?
Here are five tips that you can use to make the car ride home a more relaxing experience for both you and your child.
Set clear boundaries
It’s natural to want to be involved in your child’s sport, but you need to set clear boundaries. Giving them some freedom and independence will really help them to develop both as a person and as an athlete.
Make your child responsible for getting their equipment ready for practice or competition, instead of getting it all ready for them. Remember that this is their activity, not yours.
Put more value on effort over outcome
Everyone loves to win and competitive kids love it more than most. But when you put the emphasis on wins and losses, it can really make your child start to feel anxious about the match.
So put more focus on always trying their best and on trying to improve. That way, even if they lose the game, they can still feel like they’ve won their own personal match. This is really important when your kid is young and still learning about how to compete at sport.
As the saying goes, “You win some, you learn some”
Remember your role
Your kid’s coach is there to provide technical and tactical advice. That isn’t your job.
Your role is to provide your child with unconditional love whether they win, lose or draw. If things go well then sure, it’s time for a celebration. But when things go wrong, this is when your job is particularly important.
Don’t withhold your emotional support because you think that they could have tried harder or played better. They already know that themselves, and that’s when they need your support most.
Help them to set goals
Goal setting helps your child to work out what they want to get out of their sport.
Some will want to play at the highest levels, perhaps at college or maybe even professionally. Others just want to enjoy the sport and spending time with their friends. Both of these reasons are equally valid.
When your child has told you their goals are, you need to respect them. Just because you have aspirations for your child to play professional sport, doesn’t mean that they should follow your dreams.
Remember that your child’s goals could change over time, so check in occasionally to make sure that you’re still supporting them in the best way.
Offer the right support at competitions
Before the competition, make sure that your child arrives on time and help them to feel relaxed. Chat, laugh, listen to their favorite music and make sure that they’ve eaten and drunk properly.
During the competition, try to keep your emotions under control. Stay positive and focus on their effort rather than the outcome.
Be honest, but positive, and let Coach take care of the technical and tactical feedback. You can focus on their effort and attitude, while providing the emotional support they need.
The golden rule is that you must be consistent. Don’t follow these rules on the good days and then look disappointed when your child has a bad day. That just leads to confusion.
By following these steps, you can help your child to get the best out of their sport, and make it a more enjoyable experience for both you and your child.