Sports Parenting – Part 5

**This is the fifth post in my July series about sports parenting.  For a quick recap:
Part 1 focused on allowing participation in youth sports to teach kids about success, failure, and “life lessons.”
Part 2 focused on two particularly damaging parenting styles that I see from youth sports parents.
Part 3  focused on some of the benefits that parents can receive from being a positive sports parent.
Part 4 focused on some of the difficulties that parents face in today’s culture in order to be a positive, effective sports parent.

Today, in Part 5, I’d like to give a 10 point checklist for parents to follow to get on (or stay on!) the path of being a positive, effective sports parent.  Again, much of how I try to run my office is based on research and presentations by Dr. Tim Elmore, John O’Sullivan, and Dr. John Tufte.  (Check out their work; it’s well worth the time.)  In addition, it’s pretty easy to run an internet search to find resources regarding sports parenting.  Two of my favorite such lists are here and here.

I’ve certainly spent plenty of time talking about the “what” and “why” associated with kids playing youth sports and the parents’ roles around that participation.  Rather than getting deeper into those philosophies, I’d like to offer a list of “How” for parents to use as a guideline.

#1.  Before the season begins, ask your kid why he/she is participating in this sport.  Do not lead your kid into an answer; simply ask then listen.  Make sure that your goals for them match their own goals.

#2.  Don’t attend practice.  Let your kid learn without feeling like they need to perform for you.  (This, of course, doesn’t apply to young kids who need you and your vehicle to get to and from practice!)

#3.  Follow your district’s communication guidelines (here are ours) in order to allow your kids to advocate for themselves.  This especially applies to shy/introverted kids who find this difficult.  Youth sports is a great venue to learn this skill.

#4.  Prior to every game, say only these three things to your kid: (1) Play hard; (2) Have fun; (3) I love you.

#5.  During games, your only job is to watch and applaud the effort and performances of all the kids.  Do not attempt to coach; do not attempt to officiate; do not run to the concession stand to buy your kid a mid-game Powerade; just watch and applaud.
#5b.  Do go to the concession stand to buy yourself popcorn and a beverage, though. Our booster clubs need the revenue.

#6.  At least once per game (but preferably more!), applaud the effort or play of a kid on the other team.  Imagine how your kid would feel if he/she makes a great play and gets applauded by the opposing crowd.  Further, you’ll find yourself at ease by reinforcing your role at the game as someone watching kids play a game.

#7.  Under no circumstances should you mimic the words or actions of your kids during a game.  You don’t need to perform all of the little cheers that volleyball and softball kids do; you don’t need to try heckling other players like baseball players tend to do; you don’t need to jump into cheers started by the student sections.  You’re an adult; let the kids act like kids.

#8.  You only need to say one thing to officials.  If you believe they have been working hard, say “I appreciate your effort and dedication for our kids’ sports.”  If you don’t think they worked very hard throughout the game, just say “Thank you for using your time to work with our kids’ sports today.”  That’s it; nothing else.

#9.  After every game, say only these two things to your kid: (1) I enjoyed watching you today; (2) I love you.  Let your son/daughter decide if he/she wants to talk about anything else from the game.

#10.  After every single time you have a conversation with a coach – no matter what the topic of conversation was – make sure you thank him/her for his/her time.  Thank him/her for spending afternoons and evenings with your kid instead of his/her own family; thank him/her for voluntarily adding stress to his/her own life for the benefit of teaching your kid; thank him/her for the influence he/she has on your kid; etc.  Whether or not you believe the coach is doing the job the way you think it should be done, he/she is still spending time coaching your kid.

That’s it!  10 easy guidelines to follow to give your kid’s experience back to your kid while allowing yourself to fill the role of entertained parent.  Will you always agree with these guidelines?  I highly doubt it.  But how many times throughout the course of the day do we not agree with something but do it anyway because it’s the right thing to do?  With this list, your kids will appreciate your presence at games, the coaches will appreciate your role with the program, and you will find yourself enjoying the process of being a youth sports parent.

What did I get right?  What did I get wrong? Questions?  Comments?  Suggestions for a post?  Send me an email, or comment to this post!

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