Encouraging your kids to play sports is one of the best ways to help them develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Remember that playing sports as a child should be all about growing, developing, having a good time, and learning important social skills. Most kids want to play sports because they enjoy it and a large number of kids drop out by 13 because the adults, teamates or opponents have made it not fun any longer. If the sport becomes pressure-filled or overly stressful, kids may lose interest or even develop serious coping issues that take a lot of the joy out of being a kid. Parents can help make sure kids stay kids, and the game is just a game and have fun playing sports and develop new healthy habits with the right balance of encouragement and support.
There is NO PLACE FOR BULLYING in youth sports and it's everyone's responsibility to rid fields of this harmful behavior.
Some parents and sometimes coaches take support too far by emphasizing winning rather than developing skills and having fun. The crazy sports parent isn't that uncommon. Here are some tips to make sure you don't become one of them. The line between encouraging your child and pushing him beyond his abilities can be somewhat easy to cross. Youth sports parents occasionally need to be reminded of some basic "do's and don'ts" to help children stay happy, healthy and confident young athletes. The number one objective of coach and parent is to ensure a safe and healthy environment. The center for disease control has a great educational series on concussions.
Youth Sports Parent Do's:
- Be their biggest fan and reinforce the positive activities in a neutral tone. A relaxed player is a clear thinking participant.
- Focus on the positive and exude confidence in their abilities and team play. Good job, great pass, nice defense, nice shot, great teamwork!
- Let your child make mistakes. Doing so is part of learning, and if kids are so afraid of messing up that they quit trying, they unknowingly stop improving.
- Enjoy what you child does and can do. A parent who is interested and supportive, but not too serious or directive, will allow the child to set her own goals and be accountable for her achievements.
- Encourage your child to set goals, and measure his progress. A child who plays sports often needs help defining appropriate and realistic goals that stretch him without becoming overwhelming. This is one of the best things a parent or coach can influence. (See: Goal Setting & Motivation.)
- Remind your child of all the health benefits of playing sports, and encourage her to focus on positive health behaviors.
- Encourage your child to compete against himself, and use competition as a way to improve his own abilities.
- After every practice or game say to your child "I really enjoy watching you and your team play" see what comes back!
- Encourage your child to try and play any sport he or she enjoys. The biggest motivation for kids to play sports is having fun, and they often drop out because they are no longer finding the activity pleasurable.
- Support your child's decision not to play a sport if he or she doesn't want to. Pushing a child into sports may lead to conflict, poor motivation and other problems at home.
Sports Parents Don'ts:
- Don't discuss negative points on the ride home. They are learning, they know what could have been done differently or but but rarely will one decision decide the outcome of an event.
- Don't push your goals on your child. Many parents get into trouble by trying to seek out their own identity though their child's success.
- Don't look for excuses for losing a game. Many parents think they are helping by finding blame in the weather, equipment, or field. However, this attitude often backfires because kids fail to learn accountability for the outcome. These kids may never learn from their mistakes or try something new because they are quick to blame others for their short-comings.
- Don't focus on winning -- focus on fully participating. Children who are expected to win are often too anxious to do their best during a game. Additionally, they may lose interest in sports and competition of any kind. Parents who choose not to focus on having fun, developing new skills and doing one's best encourage kids to become resistant and resentful, unsure of themselves and their abilities, and disinterested in trying again.
- Don't criticize or yell instructions during the game or training. This only embarrasses your child and adds to the pressure they feels and often interrupts their concentration and can conflict with what the coach teaching.
- Don't yell run harder, play harder, try harder or anything negative towards the efforts they put out. It is an exhausting game both physically and mentally and until you're in their shoes in the moment you have no idea.
- NEVER YELL AT A REF OR COACH IN FRONT OF THE CHILDREN. THESE ARE USUALLY VOLUNTEERS AND ARE ALSO TEACHING YOUR CHILDREN VALUABLE LESSIONS.
Here’s a list of the 10 things that soccer parents (and coaches) should know that can make it fun for everybody.
Parents speak out of both sides of their mouths. They want their kids to become better players, yet they’re disappointed when they lose. You can’t always have it both ways. A winning team doesn’t guarantee players are being developed, and a losing team doesn't necessarily mean players are NOT being developed. For children to become better players, they must get playing time at all positions, even ones in which they’re uncomfortable.
Parents ruin things. What are the first words out of your mouth after practice or a game? If it’s not along the lines of, “Did you have fun?” Or, “Wow, I really like watching you play soccer,” then you’re saying the wrong things. One survey found what kids hate most about soccer is the car ride home with mom or dad. That’s because the first things out of parents’ mouths too often is “How did you lose that game?” or “What was wrong with you out there?”
You should behave like you’re a guest at a child’s soccer game. It’s the new phrase in soccer circles. Coaches are supposed to make the game fun. (That’s why it’s called a “game.”) But when parents are shouting instruction to the players, complaining about the referee, or moaning about the play of other kids, they’re behaving like they’re at a professional game. At that level, you pay for a ticket, so you’re entitled to speak your mind. At a youth soccer game, please just pull up a chair and enjoy the moment.
Parents should wear muzzles to games. If your child has the ball, he or she won’t hear what you’re shouting. If he doesn't have the ball and he hears you, now you’re a distraction. Also, the phrase “Just boot it!” went out of style in the mid 1980s. Cheering for your child’s long kick likely sends a conflicting message, since the odds are that’s not what the coach was teaching the team during the week.
Don’t email a coach if you’re unhappy. I have yet to meet a parent who can accurately convey tone or emotion electronically. If something’s bothering you, observe the 24-hour rule, then call the coach, or speak to the coach face-to-face privately. That’s what adults do.
Coaches don’t have the time to coach. We do it because we make the time. If it weren't for coaches, the team might not exist if nobody else stepped up to volunteer. If you’re not happy, buy the coach a $10 gift card to Dunkin Donuts at the end of the season, stick it in a Thank You card, and coach your own team next season.
The more a coach shouts during games, the greater his ego. A coach who shouts the entire game just wants to win. Shouting during each play makes them dependent on you. And it makes you hoarse. Letting the players figure things out on their own fosters creativity. Yes, they’ll make mistakes. But recovering from mistakes is part of the learning process. After all, it’s part of how they learn in school and it’s how you gain experience at work. Instead of constantly shouting, a coach should have specific pre-game instructions, encouraging words at half-time, and should be scribbling notes about what the team or individual players need to practice during the week.
Parents are the biggest obstacles to their child’s development. Don’t care to come to practice? Then your kid won’t learn. Kids who come to practice learn through repetition. Not coming to practice will impact your child’s playing time, further hurting his development…and the development of his teammates.
Your kid is not that good. Even kids on “travel teams” can sometimes secure a spot on the roster just because mom or dad can write a check. That’s often the reason there are two or three travel teams in a single age division.
All the meaningful work is done at practice. By touching the ball constantly with their feet through dribbling, juggling, passing, turning, receiving and shooting drills during practice, a child learns the basics. Games are merely a way to measure what’s been learned during the week and what still needs improvement, kind of like a math test. Plus, kids touch the ball only a fraction of the time in games that they do in practice.