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Be the sports parent your kid can be proud of

Playing team sports is an important milestone in many children’s lives. Team sports teach discipline, appropriate behavior in winning and losing, the importance of physical exercise, self-confidence, and more. Additionally, parents play an important role in the learning curve because kids take cues from their parents on what’s appropriate behavior and what’s not.

Every parent wants their child to do well and even shine on the court. Are you encouraging your child, or are you being a pain on the field? Here are some guidelines to help you be the best sports parent you can be. 

Write the cheque

Talk with your kid about different team sports. What are they interested in? Talk to your child about playing sports and about the major benefit of team sports – that is, making friends. Talk with your spouse and make sure it is not your agenda for your child to play the sport you once played. Then sign them up and write the cheque! 

“One of the primary reasons youngsters participate in sports is to have a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem. This is difficult to do when a parent is trying to vicariously live through [their] child’s performance,” says Joe Cummings, CEO and executive director of a National Soccer Coaches Association.

Be helpful

Involvement with your child’s team speaks volumes about your support for your child. Whether you bring snacks, take team pictures, coordinate parties afterward or your business sponsors the team, get involved. If the coach wants parent participation in the team’s practice, get on the field and help out.

Families’ calendars get overly full when there is more than one child in the family playing on a sports team. However, make arrangements to attend as many games as possible. If only one parent at a time can attend the game, switch up parents so both parents attend everyone’s game. If you have nearby family members, invite them to a few games. If you do not have any immediate family members living close by, invite a neighbor or a family friend to watch your child’s game.

Coaches and other team players count on each other to be on time for practices and games. “Ensuring the players are properly equipped, and are punctual for practices and for games are great ways parents can support their kids,” suggests Joe.

At the game

There are different roles and responsibilities at a game. The parent’s job is to provide emotional support for their child and leave the coaching to the coach. “Respect the coach’s expertise and if they are volunteer coaches with little coaching experience, respect the time and effort they are devoting,” says Dr. Jim Taylor, sport psychologist and author of Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Child.

Cheer for all the kids on the team, regardless of how they do. Before the game, ask your child if they would prefer you to cheer for them loudly or softly. Some kids would prefer their parents not cheer for them because it causes undue pressure on them. On the other hand, if you have a child that wants loud cheering, have a nickname for your kid. Your child will hear the nickname among other screaming fans.

Let your kids fail

Watching your child strike out or repeatedly miss a basket is painful for a parent, yet allowing kids to fail is a part of the maturing process. Children are learning skills as well as character when they achieve and when they are disappointed.

A poor call

After a game, if your child brings up the topic of a bad call from the referee, discuss it with them. However, do not let them have a ‘victim’ mentality that says their team lost because of the ref’s poor call. 

“Referees are human and are bound to make a legitimate mistake or two during any game. However, there also is the matter of a ‘perceived mistake,’ where the difference in viewing the angle can make all the difference,” says Joe. 

Criticizing the ref’s inconsistent calls does not help anyone in the long run.

Inappropriate behavior

Most sports organizations have parent-conduct rules. Coaches normally review them with the parents before formal games begin. Referees are entitled to throw a parent out of the game for inappropriate behavior or ban a parent from the sports park for the rest of the game. If a parent does not stop the behavior, their child’s team will automatically forfeit the game. Dr. Taylor recommends that the coach or another parent not talk down to the offending parent, but focus on the offending behavior and explain how it hurts the child.

If you are getting a little too involved in your child’s sport, slow down a bit by sitting farther down the field away from the action. 

“Winning is not the point because few children will rise very far up the competitive ladder,” says Dr. Taylor.

Team sports can be fun for the entire family and can give your child a rewarding experience. 

“The goal of sports is to instill a love of sport, exercise, physical activity, have fun, develop good motor skills and essential life skills,” says Dr. Taylor.

Jan is a mom of five, and a freelance writer. She had to sit farther down the third baseline so as not to get too involved in her sons’ sports games.


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