What does it actually mean to give the game back to your kids?
What does that look like in the nitty gritty of sports parenting?
It’s not just some pie-in-the-sky positive sports parenting clique. It’s something you can actually do and you can start today with these 5 steps:
Sit and Watch the Game.
Pacing the sidelines can distract your athlete. Even though you are antsy or nervous, you can make yourself sit down. Discipline yourself to have a seat, and enjoy the game as a spectator.
Let the Coach Do the Coaching.
If you’re in the habit of giving feedback to your child after every game or practice, even when they don't ask, try pulling back and let them guide the conversation. If they ask a question, answer it, but don’t coach your child if they are not asking. A simple hug or “I loved watching you play” or “You worked hard, I’m proud!” is all they need to hear.
Let Your Child Have Fun.
Youth sports is supposed to be enjoyable. That’s why kids want to play. They will learn, as they grow older, how to work hard while still having fun, but don’t ever rob them of the joy of the game. Insisting that this is serious business to little leaguers who are just excited to be playing, is turning it into your sport, not theirs.
Let Your Child Choose.
As parents, you must know how to give options to your child and let them choose. Let them try a sport and decide if they want to play another season or not. Sometimes it’s not financially or physically viable for them to choose any sport or team they want, but you can list the options that are feasible and let them decide from there. This gives your child ownership of their season because they were the one who chose it.
This will also do away with the temptation for you to orchestrate their youth sports experience. Otherwise known as “lawnmower” parenting, mowing down every obstacle and smoothing the path in front of them, every step.
Let Your Child Have Space.
This is a nice way of saying, Stop Hovering! Stop interfering, stop fixing their problems, and stop inserting yourself into everything they are involved in. This does not mean you are detached and not involved, it just means that you recognize that they don't need you for every little challenge or problem that pops up.
Giving the game back to your kids may be hard because you’ve established some bad sports parenting habits. But habits can be broken. Make the effort. Your child will enjoy the game a whole lot more if it is truly them.
Janis B. Meredith is a sportsparenting blogger, podcaster, and life coach. She provides re-sources to help parents give their children a positive and growing youth sports experience. Learn more about good sports parenting habits in her book 11 Habits for Happy & Positive Sports Parents, available on Amazon.