Parenting a young athlete is no easy task. As your children pour themselves into their sports, you have to help them navigate the triumphant ups and the devastating downs of competition. All the while, your own emotions are constantly prodded. You want to see them succeed and it can be difficult to watch your child in the face of adversity.
Still, coping with your own emotions is essential to your child’s athletic development. As recruitment starts at younger ages than ever before, college coaches are interacting with more recruit’s parents. Here are a few tips to keep in mind throughout your sports parenting journey:
1. Be a cheerleader
Whether it’s good, bad, euphoric, or heartbreaking, the best sports parents are the ones that are always there for their children. Even when you can't be in the stands, you should be your child’s #1 cheerleader.Of course, you want your kids to be the best they can be and perform at their highest level. But a lot of that is the coach’s responsibility, not yours.
Be a source of comfort for your kid. Between the expectations of their coaches, their teammates, and themselves, they face a lot of pressure. Be an outlet for them, no matter what happens on the court.
2. Respect the Coach’s Decisions
Every parent wants to see their kid shine. Unfortunately, not every player can be the star of the team. It’s the coach’s job to strategize how to optimize the team’s performance with the skills that various players bring. Trust the coach.
If your child isn’t getting the playing time they seek, work with them after-hours to improve their skills instead of complaining to the coach. Your child will learn a valuable lesson this way: things are achieved through hard work, not entitlement or complaining. Plus, nobody likes a helicopter parent.
3. Support the Entire Team
It's important to recognize that your child is part of a team and that team’s success is just as, if not more, important as your child’s personal success. Not every player can be the best player on the team, but every player has a chance to be on the winning team. Your outward support of the whole team will set a good example for your child.
4. If You Can, Volunteer
Not every parent is in the position to do so, but if you have free time and want to support your child’s team in more ways than game attendance, consider asking the coach if there are things you can do to help. Some basic ideas include: driving carpools, bringing snacks, and helping communicate with other parents.
Youth sports are an amazing thing. Kids learn about teamwork, endurance, leadership, and competition in ways that will affect them throughout the rest of their lives. As a parent, remember that winning isn’t always the name of the game. It’s something to regularly remind our kids...and ourselves.