In a recent blog post, we talked about playing for the love of the game. As parents, we want to be supportive of our children and help them along the challenging and satisfying journey of sports participation throughout their youth. I chose the word journey for many reasons, namely because (1) you’ll travel a lot for your child during their athletic seasons — for camps, practices, games, and workouts — and (2) because playing any sport subjects your child to ups and downs, highs and lows. In the end, we must keep in mind at all times that we are doing this for our children, not for ourselves.
That said, I’ve developed keys for moms and dads to follow to help them be great sports parents. We’ll discuss these over the next few blog posts.
Key #1: Tell your child, “I loved watching you play today.”
Why do we drive to practices and games? We do it because it’s a joy to see our child play and experience all the great things that sports have to offer. Yet sports can be emotional. They can bring out our best and our worst. The reason it can be so hard to watch is that we as parents have no control of what we see. Parents cannot correct, officiate, coach, or play. We must simply watch.
Key #2: Do not soften the blow for your child after a loss or lack of playing time. These moments teach mental toughness and humility.
As coaches, we want every player to assess what they did well, what they could do better, and how they can grow from a loss. Sports mirror life and an important life skill is learning to gain motivation from a set-back, rather than dejection. All of these skills can be applied to other parts of your child’s life as they get older. This can also be related to playing time. As children get older, playing time is not equal. My father, Morgan Wootten, was my high school coach, and when I made varsity as a junior I did not play. Honestly, I wasn’t ready to play game minutes on the varsity. He pulled me aside and said, “Make every practice your game.” Every day, I guarded a player who ended up going to Duke. I gained valuable experience and was the equivalent of an intern in business. My senior year, I started and the team went undefeated. When I did have the opportunity to play, I valued every minute of it.
Key #3: Don’t point fingers when things don’t go well.
When your child’s team loses, do you blame the coach? Do you blame other players, or the referees? If you blame others, what is your child learning about how to improve on the court? What is your child learning about life? That it’s always someone else’s fault.
Key #4: Teach them to be a part of something greater then themselves: a team.
Allow your child to be a part of a team. They’ll learn how to work with others to reach a common goal and how to play a role that leads to the team’s success. Parents can often get in the way when a coach tries to build a team atmosphere. They tell the child what to do and many times it is opposite of what the coach is telling the player to do. Parents have to remember that they are viewing things as if their child was the only player on the court. The coach is viewing things from the overall team’s perspective. Every coach wants their team to be successful and will try to put the best possible team on the floor. Your child will figure out how to contribute and have a role on the team — just allow them to do it and don’t get in the way.
We’ll cover more keys to being a champion parent in the coming weeks. For more information about how to position your child for success on and off the court, check out “The Power of Positivity in Sports.”