Being a sports parent spectator is not as easy as it looks. That’s your child out there, running around on the court or field and you are emotionally invested in his or her happiness and safety.
But if you really want your child to have a good youth sports experience, you must understand the most helpful way to support him or her. Here are four ways to do that:
Stay seated at games. Parents who pace the sidelines or stand up and yell from the bleachers are most likely distracting their child, if he can even hear them. If not, those parents are merely annoying other spectators. When you do not hover, pace, and shout your emotions, your child will most likely relax and play better. No athlete can do his best when he’s worried about what his parents are thinking. Cheering is part of football, but keep it positive.
No coaching, please. You have entrusted your child to the instruction of his coaches. Let them do their job. At home, it’s okay to discuss strategies to help him become a better player, but this should not be done from the bleachers. Your child needs to focus on the game and on what his coach is telling him, not on you yelling instructions.
Be intentional on the car ride home. It’s easy to get carried away in the emotion of the game and start pointing out your child’s mistakes and what he needed to do better. Instead, let the car ride home be a place where your child drives the conversation. If he has questions, then answer them, but if he doesn’t want to talk about it, then let it go. One remark such as “I loved watching you play today” is really all that he needs to hear.
Support, don’t push. Although there are gentle and positive ways to help motivate your kids, the pushiness that many sports parents practice is not what being a cheerleader means. A cheerleader is one who leads by cheering, not by nagging, cajoling or forcing their opinions on someone. And quite honestly, those methods rarely produce the long term results that will help your child have a positive and growing youth sports experience.
The best way to cheer your kids to reach their potential is by being the type of sports parent who sees the big picture of the value of sports and the lessons it can teach kids. Having that perspective allows you to focus on what’s really important in the long run and that will free you up to be that cheerleader your child needs.
Janis B. Meredith is a sportsparenting blogger, podcaster, and life coach. She provides resources to help parents give their children a positive and growing youth sports experience. Her book 11 Habits for Happy & Positive Sports Parents is available on Amazon.