Although your athlete may not express it—they may not even know how to express it—they need you for more than the tangibles you provide so they can play. You are valuable to them above the money you fork out so they can go to camps and clinics, and the hours you spend driving them to and from practices, games and tournaments.
Parenting three athletes over 22 years has taught me that there are many intangible gifts we give to our kids that they probably don’t know they need. Here are 15 ways you can show your athlete that you love and support him.
1. Be a positive spectator. Don’t distract your child from the sidelines or bleachers, telling her how to play.
2. Support without coaching. Before, during and after games, your unconditional love and support is all your child needs from you.
3. Give your child permission to have fun. In your rush to teach kids the value of hard work, don’t leave fun out of the equation. That’s what keeps them in the game.
4. Give your child permission to make mistakes. How else will he learn?
5. Give your child permission to have slumps. When mistakes turn into slumps, let your child work through it without you riding him.
6. Give your child space. After practices and games or when frustrated, your child may just need time to breathe and process. When he’s/she’s ready to talk, he/she will.
7. Bite your tongue. This will save you from many conflicts.
8. Express your pride, win or lose. Your child needs to know that you are proud of them no matter how they play; you are proud of who they are, not just what they do.
9. Let your child choose. Which sport to play? To play or not to play? Offer options and leave the choice to her.
10. Be an active listener. Pay attention when they talk; use conversation as a way to understand and then respond, not just as a way to get your point across.
11. Focus on the end game. Your child definitely doesn’t know they need this, but if you have the big picture in mind, it will go a long ways to giving your child a positive youth sports experience.
12. Stop interfering. Even though your child rants and seems to be asking for your help, they really don’t want you to step in and run interference. They really do want to fight their own battles.
13. Be there when you can. Your child needs to understand that you cannot be at every game. They don’t need your 100% attendance, but they do need your 100% support. Be there as much as you possibly can, but don’t guilt yourself if you miss a game here and there.
14. Show your pride. Wear that shirt with their name and number on it. Stand up and cheer when they make the shot. Let them know that you are their biggest fan. They may roll their eyes, but deep down they will be glad to know how proud they make you.
15. Don’t let your child’s sports define you as a parent. There’s more to life than your child’s sports. Be sure they understand that and know that your self-esteem has nothing to do with how or what your child plays. That’s too much of a burden for an athlete to carry on their shoulders.
Here’s why these types of gifts are so important: They speak to who they are deep in their soul, shaping character and giving them a strong foundation for adulthood.