As a coach’s wife for three decades and sports mom for 21 years, I’ve seen just about every kind of sports parent there is, and I know that most of you love your child, and ultimately just want them to succeed.
However, many of you may get lost in the competitiveness of sports and forget that there are some things your young athlete desperately wants and needs from you, things that they may not even know how to express.
So I’m here to speak for them. Here are some “secrets” that they may be keeping, that you need to know in order to be the best supporter and encourager for your child.
1. Your child needs you to relax during the game.
This means no hovering on the sidelines with coaching tips, no angry body stance that may convey your disapproval of your child’s performance, and no yelling at the coach to do a better job.
2. Your child needs a hug after the game.
Not your critiquing, not your silent treatment if they blew it, not your remarks about “it’s only a game.” Just a hug that says, “I love you, love watching you play, and I am proud of you.”
3. Your child needs you to play with them.
Without keeping score, without coaching, if you’re playing your child’s chosen sport, just have fun and be sure to laugh, a lot.
4. Your child needs you to smile during the game.
If your child does glance at you during the game, an encouraging smile will go a long way to helping them relax and enjoy the contest.
5. Your child needs you to stop insisting that they “toughen up.”
If your child cries or expresses emotion, it's not being a “sissy,” they're being honest. If an athlete needs to cry, a wise coach or parent will help them work through it, not demean them for it.
6. Your child needs you to not live out your dreams through them.
Whether you were the "stud" of the team or the one who struggled to even get in the game, it’s time to let the past be the past. Focus instead on helping your child be the best, and not presume that they will make up for your struggles or continue your “legacy.”
7. Your child needs your protection, not your over-protection.
Every child should know that you would be there in the blink of an eye if they face physical or emotional harm, but your child does not need you to smooth every path and fight every battle.
8. Your spouse needs you to let them vent without you taking action.
I did this a lot to my husband. I would voice my frustrations, and he always felt he needed to jump in and handle the situation. He thought that venting was my way of asking him to fix the problem, but he was wrong. I just needed a safe place to dump my emotions. Friction between parents is not good for youth athletes. Open lines of communication with your spouse and your athlete will allow them to express their emotions, and focus on the game.
9. Your family needs you to love them more than sports.
Well, duh, you may say. But let’s be honest: competitive parents, who dearly love their families, sometimes forget to show that they love the kids first. Be sure your attitudes and actions strongly convey where your real priorities lie.
These are the secrets to being a great sports parent and to giving your child a positive and growing youth sports experience.
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. Learn more about good sports parenting habits in her book 11 Habits for Happy & Positive Sports Parents, available on Amazon.