It Really Is Just a Game – 10 Tips for Sports Parents
Like most moms (and dads) out there, a lot of my time is spent with my children cheering them on at their sporting events. I am the proud mom of a 9 year old daughter who is a competitive gymnast, a 7 year old son who plays baseball, football and basketball and a cute little 3 year old son who next spring will make his t ball debut.
While most of the parents I encounter at these sporting events are wonderful (as a matter of fact a few of my closest friends are the parents of my children’s teammates), there are a few parents who take the role of Sports Mom or Dad a little too seriously. So serious in fact that they seem to look miserable as they watch their child and in turn make their child miserable.
Observing these parents has given me the inspiration to come up with these 10 tips for all sports parents to remember when they are watching their kids in action:
1) IT’S JUST A GAME!
The likelihood that your child or my child is going to make it to the Olympics or the MLB, NFL or NBA are slim to none. As a matter of fact, the last time I checked this was a LITTLE LEAGUE Minors game. I am no genius but I can assure you there are no college scouts sitting in folding camp chairs watching this game. This is a 90 minute game where your child is learning how to play a sport and work as a team. Let this be enjoyable. This should be FUN.
2) UNLESS YOU ARE YOUR CHILD’S COACH, DON’T COACH YOUR CHILD!
My daughter is a competitive gymnast. Before she started competing, I would try to tell her how to tumble. I would tell her how to point her toes and keep her arms straight. I would get mad at her when she didn’t listen to me. But here was the problem. I had (and still do not) have any idea how to properly teach her these things! Just because I watch her practice for a few hours a week when I can doesn’t mean I know a thing about gymnastics because I don’t! She has a coach. A very good coach. Though I know my daughter better than her coach, her coach knows my daughter the gymnast better than I do. I have learned to trust her coach. She knows where my daughter needs to be in the gym and the path to get her there.
3) NEVER COMPARE YOUR CHILD’S ATHLETIC ABILITY TO ANOTHER CHILD!
Who cares that little Billy can throw the ball farther than your son? Little Billy also picks his nose and eats it! I mean come on!
4) HE (OR SHE) IS NOT YOU!
Just because you may have been on the varsity football team does not mean that your son will be. Your son may hate football and guess what that is okay. Just because you were a great basketball player when you were little does not mean your daughter is destined to be a great basketball player. Your status as a good parent is not indicated by your child’s performance as an athlete. A good parent is one that realizes that if you have to drag your child crying, kicking and screaming all the way to the football field for each practice and game he has, its time to let it go.
5) DO NOT BECOME THE OVER COMPETITIVE PARENT!
Last year during my daughters competition season I drank the Kool Aid. The over competitive mom Kool Aid. I let some of the other moms get into my head. I started wondering why my daughter was not getting her skills as fast as some of the other girls on her team. On top of the 19 hours a week she was training, I scheduled her for a couple hours a week privates with her coach. I put unnecessary pressure on my daughter and guess what? It came to the point where I could not even enjoy watching her compete. I was on pins and needles and miserable. I swear I gave myself an ulcer and for what? I know she picked up on my negative vibes. She loves gymnastics and I should of been smiling watching her, not sitting there scowling.
6) BEING COACHABLE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ATHLETIC ABILITY!
I don’t care if little Joey can throw a 40 mph curve ball and hit a home run at every at bat, if he is going to disregard everything his coach says and not be a team player, he should be benched. Learning how to respect authority, follow directions and working as part of a team are lessons that are going to take you farther in life as an adult.
7) DON’T CRITICIZE YOUR CHILD IN PUBLIC!
We all make mistakes. Not one of us is perfect. So when your 6 year old son is at bat and he already has 2 strikes on him and he swings at a pitch that is literally in the dirt and strikes out, keep your mouth shut unless you are the umpire saying he is out. He is 6 and probably already feels bad enough he did not get to hit the ball and get on base. He does not need YOU his father who is about 30 years older than him to belittle him as he is walking back to the dugout. You had your chance to play Little League Baseball. Did you like it when your father did that to you in front of everyone?
8) NOT EVERYONE WINS!
In every game or contest there are winners and there are losers. We have become a society that feels every effort needs to be rewarded and in return we are creating generations of self-serving cry babies. You win some. You lose some. In each scenario there is always a lesson to be learned. Part of being an athlete is knowing how to both win and lose. Winners should be humble, losers should be willing to go out and try harder the next time. Very important life lesson. This is not only for children, but their parents too.
9) PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!
Not everyone is born with athletic ability. If your child finds a sport he or she loves, even if they are not good at it skill wise, half the battle is showing up. If they have a desire to learn the sport, the determination to improve, the more they practice, they better they will become. It is like learning to ride a bike without training wheels. You may fall a few times, but eventually you get the hang of it and go the distance. The road may get a little bumpy but don’t give up.
10) MAKE GOOD MEMORIES!
My son is only going to have so many Little League games. My daughter only so many gymnastics competitions. It goes by so fast. I want them to be happy doing what they love. Not worrying about me being upset they weren’t the best. The truth is, 10 years from now it won’t matter if my daughter did not take first place on floor exercise or if my son didn’t hit a home run. What will matter is how I made them feel afterwards. And that’s the lesson they will eventually teach my grandchildren.
Thank you to Contributor Christina Whittington for this article.