3 ways to have fun when your child plays youth sports

By Janis Meredith | Posted 11/26/2018

If you watched the 2018 Winter Olympics, then you’ll probably remember Jong Jin Kim, the dad of snowboarder Chloe Kim. He held up a poster board sign that said, “Go Chloe!” with a pink heart colored in above the words.

Jong Jin showed parents of athletes in youth sports the No. 1 rule of being awesome: have a blast. All too often parents forget that watching their child compete, whether at the Olympics or in T-ball, should be fun.

I will be the first to admit that having a blast isn’t always easy when watching a child play sports — especially as they get older and competition stiffens. With the conflicts, drama and pressure, there were seasons and days when we were lucky to just stay calm, much less “have a blast.”

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But as I observed Jong Jin, I thought, “Now there’s a dad who’s having a blast.” How is it possible for all sports parents to have so much fun?

Here’s a few ways that might help you learn to not just enjoy, but to have a blast as your kid competes.

Stop coaching and just be the parent

When you coach your child, you will be more focused on what they do wrong and what they need to work on to improve. But when you let the coach do that job, you are freed up to just relax and enjoy the game. You are not responsible for your child’s performance and skill improvement. Just let them know you are exuberantly supporting them and let the coach do the rest.

Don’t worship the outcomes

I love winning. It’s a blast. But if sports parents only have fun when winning, they are worshipping the outcomes and ignoring the journey.

Chloe Kim was in Korea to win gold, but what if she hadn’t? Would her dad still have proudly held up his homemade sign and vigorously cheered her on? Of course he would have. He was enjoying the whole experience.

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If you can only have fun when your child has a perfect outcome to their game or event, then you’re missing out on the full experience and fun of the journey of youth sports.

Winning outcomes are great, but it’s also a blast to watch your child become a leader, improve their performance from game to game, overcome defeat, fight back to victory, and fight back to almost winning. There’s lots of reasons to be proud of your kids that have nothing to do with the score board.

Keep your hands off

Much of the fun of youth sports disappears for parents when they become too involved in their child’s journey. When parents step in to fight their kid’s battles, they get worked up and worried, and that will suck the fun out of watching your kids play faster than a popped balloon.

This is hard, parents. But honestly, one of the best ways to “have a blast” watching your child play is to become somewhat detached from their battles. Listen, love and let them fight them, but try not to carry the burden on yourself. Take this from a mom who was notorious for carrying those burdens and who quickly learned they only made me miserable. Enjoyment will come when you see your child rise up through conflict and succeed on their own.

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When you choose to keep your hands off, you may go through sports parenting withdrawals. Once you learn to accept that as your new normal, I truly believe you’ll experience a sense of freedom that you don’t have to fix things for your child and that they really will be okay. Only then will you be released to “have a blast.”

Janis B. Meredith is a parenting coach. She provides resources to help parents raise champions. Learn more about how she can help parents Raise Champions.