Sports Dads, can we talk for a minute about your young athletes?
As a coach’s wife for 3 decades and sports mom for 21 years, I’ve seen just about every kind of sports dad there is, and I know you–you are most likely very competitive, love your child, and ultimately just want him or her to succeed.
These are good characteristics for a sports dad, but there is more. Your child and spouse need things from you that they may not want to admit to you for fear of hurting you or making you angry.
So I’m here to speak for them. Here’s some “secrets” they may be keeping that you need to know in order to be the best supporter and encourager for your child.
Your child needs you to relax during the game.
This means no hovering around the dugout with coaching tips, no angry body stances from the sidelines that convey your disapproval of your child’s performance, and no yelling at the coach to do his job better.
Your child needs your hug after the game.
Not your critiquing, not your silent treatment if he blew it, not your remarks about “it’s only a game.” Just a hug that says “I love you, love watching you play and am proud of you.”
Your child needs you to play with him/her.
Without keeping score, without coaching. If you’re playing your child’s chosen sport, just have fun and be sure to laugh a lot.
Your child needs you to smile during the game.
If your child does glance at you during the game, an encouraging smile will go a long way to helping him/her relax and enjoy the contest.
Your daughter needs you to let her wear ribbons in her hair.
In other words, not all female players are “tomboys.” I knew a softball dad who got angry when his high school daughter put on makeup outside of the game when she went out with her friends. If your daughter wants to be “girlie”, let her. Being “girlie” doesn’t mean being weak or non-competitive.
Your son needs you to stop insisting that he “toughen up.”
If your son cries or expresses emotion, he is not being a “sissy,” he’s being honest. If an athlete needs to cry, a wise coach or parent will help him work through it, not demean him for it.
Your child needs you to not live out your dreams through him or her.
Whether you were the stud of the team or the one who struggled to even get in the game, it’s time to let the past be the past. Focus instead on helping your child be her best, and not presume that he will either make up for your struggles or continue your “legacy.”
Your child needs your protection, not your over-protection.
Every child should know that Dad would be there in the blink of an eye if he/she faces physical or emotional harm. But your child does not need you to smooth every path and fight every battle.
Your wife needs you to let her vent without you taking action.
I did this a lot to my husband. I would voice my frustrations and he always felt he needed to jump in and handle the situation. He thought that venting was my way of asking him to fix the problem. But he was wrong; I just needed a safe place to dump my emotions.
Your family needs you to love them more than sports.
Well, duh, you may say. But let’s be honest: competitive dads–who dearly love their families–sometimes forget to show that they love mom and kids first. Be sure your attitudes and actions strongly convey where your real priorities lie.
These are the secrets to being a great sports dad and to giving your child a positive and growing youth sports experience.
Start the new school season with some good habits!