It’s well known that playing sports is good for children both physically and socially. Fitness goals, social skills, and learning what it means to be part of a team - these are just a few of the benefits that come with starting sports at a young age. Parents of youth sports athletes know this first-hand already. But what these parents may not know is just how important their role is in their young athlete’s development.
As their main mentors, parents play an important role in the development of their kid’s athletic abilities. Parental influence can affect a kid’s health, life skill development, and ability to cope with winning and losing in life.
Being a successful parent involves a fair bit of amateur psychology - after all, you have to lead a complex individual through the turmoil of childhood and adolescence and hope they come out alright on the other end. There are a number of strategies parents can use to help their kids succeed in youth sports. But just involvement itself on the parent’s end can make a critical difference.
Parents of youth sports athletes should be constantly striving to create an environment in which their kids can succeed. This includes visibly supporting your kids and their coach, empowering yourself by learning about their chosen sport, watching and listening about practices and games, and providing helpful feedback after practices and games. Parents need to constantly work at being positive role models in their kid’s activities.
Remember, your kids watch everything you do. That means they see your reaction to life, and will inevitably model their behavior around yours. Creating a positive family culture when it comes to sports participation is vitally important. The way you behave will influence their own behavior on the field.
Begin this positive influencing right from the start of the season. Discuss your family's core values and remind your kids what is important in life. These values should reflect how they behave in sporting activities. Work on managing your own expectations so you can avoid putting too much pressure on them. Remember, as parents of youth sports athletes, your primary role is to encourage happiness and confidence in your kids. You are not them, and your goal is to make sure they succeed. This approach will translate into passionate kids with a healthy mindset.
As your player gets older, you can also adopt strategies parents can adopt sports psychology strategies to help your young athlete. Building these sports psychology tips into your life can assist you in navigating your kid’s sports participation.
Again, as parents of youth sports athletes, you need to remember that this is your kids’ time to shine. Trying to relive your own glory days on the field will inevitably lead to frustration on the part of your kids. As a parent, you need to accept your kid’s sporting abilities, and not place unrealistic expectations on them.
Every opportunity in life provides a learning moment. As parents, you should try to find the learning moment in the disappointments and losses as well as the wins. Losses happen, in life and in sports. When they do, don’t fish for excuses like inadequate equipment or a poorly performing coach or referee. Find the learning moment that will ensure positive growth for your kids.
While it is always a good idea to volunteer your help, make sure your participation is in an area you are familiar with. Your kid has a coach, and they probably have a team manager as well: these roles are not yours to fill. Step back and let them benefit from other mentors’ influence.
This also applies to conflict situations. Obviously don’t put your kids in danger, but when it comes to conflict with a teammate, stand back and let your kids fight their own battles. This will encourage communication, resilience, and growth on the part of your child. It may also result in them becoming more invested in their sport.
Watch for red flags in your and your kid’s behavior such as:
Your kid avoiding you at the end of a game
Your kid being more focused on you in the stands than on the game
Catching yourself taking credit for their sporting abilities
Being verbally critical of referees
Complaining about coaches or other volunteers
When your child participates in any youth sports activity, you as the parent play a critical role. Think of it as a three-way relationship between your kids, the coach, and yourself. The foundation of your role in this relationship is ultimately support. It is your responsibility to support your kid in their development, encourage participation, and guide them through the disappointments that will inevitably crop up.
As the parent of a youth sports athlete, you occupy an important role in their life. You guide your kids in responding to conflict situations, bouncing back from disappointments, and responding to constructive development. Your actions will determine how your kids interact with their coaches, fellow teammates, and referees. While they have a coach to guide their development on the field, you are their coach off the field, and your coaching strategies are just as important.
No matter how old your kids are, your role in their sporting development will play a role in the type of athlete they become. Always remember you are their parent first: you are their mentor and cheerleader.