Parents will always have a crazy role in the life of a child athlete. I have seen parents practically assuming the coaching chores of their child’s team. They turn out to be instant sports geniuses and game-after analysts.
That explains why parents and coaches have a relationship that’s more quirky than most couples. It’s a love-hate relationship.
Between parents and child, their journey in sports is also one that’s as exciting as a rollercoaster ride.
I have recently become a sports dad to my son Magnus who has taken up BMX racing as a 4-year old miniwheeler. He has by far two races across his name including one with the BMX West Australia Super Series where he brought home his first trophy.
In deciding to get Magnus into this sport, it was a breeze with him. Not with the wifey whom I had to convince by bringing her to the race track during the State Finals. From there, she had been a fan.
It’s been so much fan with your child in sports. The car rides home from racing have been a bit of a chat analyzing how things went right and how it could get better the next time. I know those car rides home can also be dreadful for some kids. Many young athletes dread that time after the game when they are practically held captive in the family car with no immediate escape and they’re forced to listen to their parent’s analysis of the game and their performance. They get the mouthful of critiques of not only of how they played, but also of their teammates and coaches.
To be honest, these are the things that zaps out the fun in the life of young athletes.
That is why the parent-player relationship is important. It is the duty of parents to keep that interest high for their children to develop in sports.
This brings us to the question on how parents can increase the fun factor in sports.
I came through five suggestions from experts.
First. Create traditions.
Get the game face on. Whether it’s having “carbo loading” or pasta feeds the night before big games or playing the same pump-up song from your car’s stereo in route to the game, kids thrive on traditions. Traditions can get players in the right mindset and can go a long way to creating lasting, positive memories about the experience.
Second. Understand your role during games.
If you’re a new parent to youth sports, here’s some advice for your game time behavior: Let coaches coach, referees ref, players play and parents parent. Coaches will sometimes try to ref and it doesn’t work out well. Parents will sometime try to jump roles to coach or ref, or both. That doesn’t work well either.
What do players want from parents at games? The answer: a quiet presence. Be there, but don’t stand out from the crowd. Cheer good play from both teams. Be supportive. Demonstrate poise. Don’t shout player instructions or ride the refs. Get along with other parents. Support teammates and coaches.
Third. Play the game with your child.
Pick up the game yourself.Play the sport with your kid. If you’re not very good at the sport, that’s even better. When my son picked up BMX racing, I wasn’t in a position to give him any coaching tips, as I had never raced nor ridden BMX. My experience with mountain bike and road cycling is a whole different world. A few days ago, I picked up my own BMX bike and started to ride. In a few weeks, I’ll be on that race track to get the real feel.
Try playing more and coaching less. Let your child come to you asking for advice. Advice yields better results when you have a receptive audience.
Fourth. Look for ways to help the team.
There are many ways parents can help the team. When parents are involved with a team in a positive way, it makes for a better overall experience.
Fifth. Know what to say.
Pre-game suggestions: “Have fun!” and “I love watching you play.” You can’t go wrong with those two lines. Kids will be excited and nervous enough – no need to ask them if they’re ready for the big game. You want your child relaxed and confident going into games.
During the game suggestions: Remember you’re a quiet presence. Offer no coaching advice. Cheer good play from both teams. Smile a lot. Relax. Enjoy the experience. Go with a steady diet of: “Way to go,” “Great job,” and “Nice play!”
Post-game suggestions: For the car ride home, you need to shift roles from sports spectator to parent. Offer no performance analysis on the ride home. Listen. Tell your child you’re proud and that you enjoy watching the game. If there’s some priceless piece of advice you’d like to pass on to your child, wait a day – let’s call this “the 24 hour rule.” Give your child a chance to unwind.
We parents are the best role models for our kids. So keep a good relationship with fellow parents and the coaching staff. Even the opposing players and teams. And yes, even with the referees.
When you try to build a champion, you got to show your child that you are a champion yourself and I mean not about winning races or tournaments but winning friends and everyone’s respect.