Your child has asked to play a youth sport. What do you do now?
Be very happy! Your child’s desire is to embark on a new journey of discovery... such is youth!
Whether it’s Baseball, Softball, T-ball, Soccer, Football, Hockey, Golf or any other sport, your response will have a significant impact on (1) their play, (2) if they continue to play and, (3) how much they will learn about life.
Parental excitement, genuine support, and interest in childrens’ endeavors have created many successful individuals who contribute positively to society. Remember the two presidential candidates in 2008 appearing on Monday Night Football recalling their youth sports experiences? The candidates’ positive memories should be your indicator as to the impact youth sports can have on life and life‘s lessons.
How do you support your young athlete?
Your child already plays a sport. How do you help and improve their experience? First and foremost, keep a proper perspective and continue to support them in THEIR endeavor. This is their experience, they should own it not you.
There are many things YOU can do to help your child succeed. As a parent you will have opportunities before and after practices/games in the car. You will have another opportunity during the event.
Before the event:
Speak greatness into your child. Tell them you are proud of them regardless of the outcome and have them focus on their attitude and effort!
Do not set expectations of a number of hits, points scored, touchdowns or sacks of any kind. If you do this, and your child doesn't reach them, the child will feel like he hasn't succeeded. Goals are great, but they should be with effort and attitude. The numbers will come if the effort and attitude are there!
Tell them to play hard and to have fun! Remind them that it is okay to be nervous and that mistakes will happen. Tell them if they make a mistake to learn from it and move on quickly with a positive attitude and effort!
During the event:
Understand your role. You are not a coach, you are a fan! Let the coaches do the coaching!
Have fun and enjoy the experience with the other parents. A positive influence can make a difference with the other parents regardless of the outcome! Realize your child will be watching and listening to you, even if you don't see them doing so.
Do not criticize the officials for making improper calls. Remember the level of play you are watching, and realize the officials are typically at the same level. They are usually younger people doing something they enjoy and are learning just like your child. Most importantly you have no control over the official and if you belittle, taunt or antagonize the official you are not setting a very good example for your child, or helping your child's team!
Make the most of it and have fun. Your child is exercising, enjoying themselves and having fun, don't ruin it for them!
After the event: This is the most important part!
If you start the conversation, the first thing you say MUST be positive! Say something like "even though you guys lost, I thought the effort was good" or "you did great on that one play, when you ....."
Better yet, let your child tell you about the game first! Say nothing until they start the conversation. Again KEEP IT POSITIVE!
Ask them open ended questions such as; "What did you think was the best part of the game?" or "What did you learn during the game?" Listen and let them talk, you don't have to like their answers, but they are YOUR CHILDS answers, let them own the experience. They will gain so much more from it this way!
Tell them this....I LOVE TO WATCH YOU PLAY! That statement alone will make your child feel good about their experience win or lose.
While the youth sports experience is a wonderful thing to share with your children, many parents get overly involved. This is likely because they missed out on their own youth sports experiences, or because their high expectations cause them to be invasive and, therefore, skew the experience for their own child. Keep a proper perspective.
Just as your child will learn a lot along the way, so will you. The best thing to do is with your new knowledge (based in experience) is to direct it towards your child in a positive manner. Positive influence is very, very powerful – and it empowers them to do their best.