As you sit on the sidelines, what are you watching most? The score? The time clock, your phone, or your child?
I’d like to suggest that you tear your eyes away from the scoreboard and focus more on what you observe as you watch your child play youth football. There six important things you should be seeing as your young athlete plays the game.
1. An occasional smile
This will hopefully indicate your child enjoys playing. If athletes always look angry or frustrated, you may need to help them start looking for and celebrating the smaller victories as well as the big ones.
2. Encouragement for teammates
It always made me smile to see my kids pat a teammate on the back, or speak encouragement to one who was struggling. When youth football players can do this, they are learning the importance of being a team player.
3. Respect for a competitor
It’s great to see youth football players help a teammate up from the ground, but it’s even better when they help an opponent up. I always loved seeing my kids say something positive or pat a competitor on the back after that competitor made a good play. Don’t feed the lie that the opponent is the enemy.
4. A determined look
When youth football players make a mistake or face a deflating situation, the look you want to see on their faces is one of determination. It’s natural for children to initially feel discouraged, but when they can get back up and keep fighting after being knocked down, that makes any sports parent proud!
If your child is not doing as their youth football coach instructs, you may want to explain about how coaches love working with kids who do what they ask in the game. Kids who respect their coach’s wishes and ask for help exhibit a teachability that will benefit them in sports and in all other areas of life.
Your child doesn’t have to be voted team captain or co-captain to be a leader. When my daughter was a junior in high school, she struggled with this very issue. I told her that she didn’t need a title to be a leader. Leaders serve, encourage, and set examples, and when I saw her doing those things, I knew she was learning lessons of leadership that would take her far in life.
If you are not seeing any of these 6 things from the sidelines during your child’s competition, then it’s time to shift your focus from results, to effort and character development — the things that will truly matter in 10 years when the score is long forgotten.
Janis B. Meredith is a life coach for sports parents. 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.