Remember, sports parents, it is called youth sports.
Perhaps you’ve been told that many times. You nod your head in agreement and add your voice to the battle cry, it’s all about the kids!
But what does it actually mean to give the game back to your kids? What does that look like in the nitty gritty of sports parenting?
It’s not just some pie-in-the-sky positive sports parenting clique. It’s something you can actually do and you can start today with these 5 steps:
Sit and Watch the Game.
Some parents like to pace the sidelines, but that can be a distraction to your kids. You can make the excuse that you’re nervous or antsy, but if you can sit in the stands at a pro or college championship game, you can do it at your own kids’ game. Discipline yourself to have a seat, and enjoy the game as a spectator.
Let the Coach Do the Coaching.
If you’re in the habit of giving feedback to your child after every game or practice, even when she doesn’t ask, try pulling back and not saying anything “coachy”—at all. Let her guide the conversation. If she asks a question, answer it, but don’t coach your child if she’s not asking. A simple hug or “I loved watching you play” or “You worked hard, I’m proud!” is all she needs to hear.
Let Your Child Have Fun.
Youth sports is supposed to be enjoyable. Why else would kids want to play? They will learn, as they grow older, how to work hard while still having fun, but don’t ever rob them of the joy of the fun of the game. Insisting that this is serious business to little leaguers who are just excited to be playing, is turning it into your sport, not theirs.
Let Your Child Choose.
As parents, you must learn the fine art of giving options to your child, and letting him choose. Let him try a sport and decide if he wants to play another season or not. Sometimes it’s not financially or physically viable for him to choose any sport or team he wants, but you can list the options that are feasible and let him decide from there. This gives your child ownership of his season because he was the one who chose it.
This will also do away with the temptation for you to orchestrate his youth sports experience. Otherwise known as “lawnmower” parenting, mowing down every obstacle and smoothing the path in front of his every step.
Let Your Child Have Space.
Which is a nice way of saying, Stop Hovering! Stop interfering, stop fixing her problems, and stop inserting yourself into everything she’s involved in. This does not mean you are detached and not involved, it just means that you recognize that she doesn’t need you for every little challenge or problem that pops up.
Giving the game back to your kids may be hard because you’ve established some bad sports parenting habits. But habits can be broken. Make the effort. Your child will enjoy the game a whole lot more if it is truly his.
Establish positive habits that will shape your child’s destiny!