Would you say you are an overbearing sports parent?
Throughout 21 years of being a sports mom and 33 years of being a coach’s wife, I have never met a parent who did not want their child to succeed in youth sports. Each one had their own unique way of supporting and/or pushing their child in their quest to succeed.
It’s tempting to get pushy as a parent, to be a bit overbearing because we want so desperately to see our kids succeed. But in their attempts to “help” their children, may parents are doing the opposite–they are annoying their kids, alienating them, and may even be turning them off to playing sports.
There ARE ways, however, to help your child strive for success without being an overbearing sports parent. I have learned this through trial and error, through mistakes and victories, and through ups and downs. Here’s what I know about how you can help your child succeed without being an overbearing sports parent.
Focus on the end game; Who do you want your child to be after they are done playing?
It’s hard to look beyond today’s game or this season, but if parents would discipline themselves to zoom out periodically, they would remember that no matter what happens in the now, the most important thing to keep in mind is who your child is becoming in the process.
Parents who allow themselves to see the bigger picture will relax and ultimately be less overbearing. This does not mean that you don’t encourage your child to push themselves, challenge them to work harder, and provide opportunities for them to improve their skills.
Keep winning in perspective; everyone wants to win, but don’t lose character in the process.
Every player, parent and coach wants to win. But winning is not a victory if it comes at the coast of character. I’ve witnessed opposing teams play with questionable character because they were hell-bent on winning. I’ve seen coaches set poor examples because they were more concerned about winning than about how they won.
Why is this so important? Because coaches and parents are setting examples that will influence tomorrow’s leaders.
Parents who can keep winning in it’s proper perspective–remember this is YOUTH sports–will know the value of effort and not just the numbers on the scoreboard.
Give your child space when they need it, after practices, games or when frustrated.
I had to learn this the hard way. When my kids were upset after a game or practice, I would try to get them to talk or hug them, and really they just wanted some space to get over it. A simple “I’m sorry” or a pat on the shoulder may be the best form of support until they are ready to talk.
Parents, you cannot fix everything for your child just by saying the right words. I’m all about communicating, so it’s hard for me to swallow this. But after experiencing rejection from my kids when they just wanted to be left alone, I figured the best way to help them was to give them that space and be there when they were ready to talk.
Eventually, they usually will talk. But even if they don’t, they will know that you are there for them.
Let your child learn to push themselves.
This is the hardest, and yet the most freeing thing you can do as a parent. It’s exhausting to push your kids because they are either pushing back, or are very hard to push.
There’s no easy on ramp for this. Just stop pushing and start encouraging. See what happens when they have success after pushing themselves; it will motivate them to push again, in hopes of more success. It’s contagious and it’s empowering.
Don’t distract your child from the sidelines or bleachers, telling them how to play.
Be the parent, not the coach. Your constant instructions during a game can distract and even confuse your child, if your words are different from what their coach is saying.
In 33 years of being a coach’s wife, I’ve heard some parents yell some pretty annoying things to their kids during the game, which their kids may or may not hear. It’s best to keep your words positive. If your child is tuned in to hear you during the game, the encouragement will help them much more than your coaching instructions.
Overbearing sports parents = Toxic environment
Unfortunately, it has gotten to a point in today’s youth sports culture that you can’t go to any type of youth sports game without seeing a parent scream at an official, badmouth the opposing team’s players or parents, or be overly critical of their own child, the team or the coach. This can be a toxic environment for our kids. What are we really teaching our kids when this behavior is modeled?
If you’d like to use tools in your parenting that will help you better connect with and understand your child, let’s talk. Schedule a free consult here.