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A beginner’s guide to sports parenting

If this is your child’s first, second, or even third year of playing youth sports, then you are still relatively new to the game. It may seem easy, and you may think, “This is great! This is fun! Where’s the hard part so many sports parents talk about?”

Being your child’s cheerleader is not the hard part; it’s the stuff that surrounds the game that gets sticky.

So, new sports moms and dads whose kids have been playing one to three years, this post is for you. I am going to give you nine beginner’s tips to set you on a course for many years of positive and enjoyable sports parenting.

 1. Answer this question:

What kind of sports parent do you want to be if your kids are still playing when they get to high school or college? Do you want to be positive and enthusiastic? Pacing and agitated as you pace the sidelines? Will you coach your kids from the bleachers?

 Decide today what kind of sports parent you desire to be for your children. Make choices that will help you be a positive, supportive parent.

 2. Beware of the slippery slope

 As your child continues to play sports, you will not suddenly wake up one morning and be a negative, pushy sports parent. It happens slowly, over the years, one choice at a time.

When your young child sits the bench more than you like, will you chew the coach out or confront calmly with a question like, “Is there anything that Johnny can do to improve his game?” You have a choice.

When the coach calls a play you don’t agree with, will you smirk to other parents about his bad coaching, or will you keep your mouth shut and be grateful that he’s giving up his time to coach your child? You have a choice.

Each choice will either bring you closer to being a strong, supportive sports parent, or it will push you a little further down the slippery slope toward being the parent you really don’t want to be.

 3. Coaches are not infallible

Coaches are not perfect humans. They have jobs, problems, families, insecurities, egos, and a desire to win (I’ve never met a coach who wants to lose). Sometimes they don’t make the best choices. Sometimes they are tired or grumpy. Sometimes it may seem like they don’t know what they are doing.

Unless there are safety or moral issues involved, the best thing you can do when you are unhappy with a coach, is to show your child how to deal with people he doesn’t like or agree with.

 4. You are going to be biased about your child

 This is not a fact you can change. But it is a fact you can understand and work around.

Filter your reactions through this: Is my child really good enough to play that position or to be on the field for most of the game? Or am I seeing the situation through my bias?

 5. Sometimes, it’s best to let someone else coach your child

 Trying to coach your kid when he doesn’t want your help will hurt your relationship. This is when you accept support from others.

Let coaches, teachers and trainers do their jobs. Being a good parent doesn’t mean you do everything for and with your children; it means you give them the resources they need to help him learn and grow.

6. Don’t be enamored with the numbers

Stats are important, but they do not tell the entire story of a game. They don’t measure the effort, the teamwork, or the leadership shown.

What will matter in 10 years – that your child scored two touchdowns in a game, or grew up understanding what it means to be a team player? You can have both, but many sports parents have a love affair with stats, and are missing the whole point of youth sports.

7. Avoid the temptation to fix everything

Fixing things for your kids means you step in to fight their battles, smooth their path, and bail them out of troubles. It may make you feel better because it seems like you’ve resolved the problem. But in reality, it’s just opening the door for more problems in the future, which you will continue to feel the urge to fix. 

8. Be prepared to help out

Teamwork is not just for athletes; it’s for parents, too. If every parent pitches in and does one task, no matter how small it is, the work of running a team will be much easier. It should not be left up to one parent to do all the work.

 9. Stay away from sympathy groups

 Those groups of parents who cluster together during or after the game to complain, criticize or pick apart the coach and the team are called sympathy groups. They are not helpful and they do not seek solutions; they are venting groups that usually end up causing more division on the team.

Beginning sports parents, as you dive into the unfamiliar world of youth sports, remember this: Youth sports is about fun, learning, growth and character development. You send your kids to school, wanting them to come out as adults who are ready to face the world. You should want nothing less for your child’s journey in youth sports.