How to Be a Sports Parent
It's not if you win or lose
Pediatricians estimate that ninety percent of young children they see participate in organized sports. In fact, sports help children develop important social skills and promote their physical fitness. We’ve all heard people say, ‘It’s not if you win or lose, it’s all how you play the game’. However, for many parents, it is becoming all about ‘if you win or lose’. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness, “unrealistic parental expectations can contribute to negative psychological consequences for elite young athletes”. If you are a sports parent, make sure your young child knows that it’s all about fun, friends, and fitness.
It's all how you play the game
- Do not force your child to participate. Encourage your child to pick up a sport, whether it is gymnastics, soccer, or basketball, because physical activity is good for him, as is interacting with other children his age. However, be mindful of his abilities and interests. Often, children who are not good at something become discouraged. If your child enjoys it, encourage him to stick with it for a while, but avoid forcing him. Look for positive actions, such as being a team player, and praise them. Also, young children might lose interest in an activity quickly or want to take on something new that their friends are involved in. You may want to have your child choose one or two sports and finish the season or session; sports take a commitment of time and resources from you as a parent, so know how much you can give.
- Your tone sets her attitude. When she comes home from a game, your first instinct may be to ask her if she won, or if she scored a goal. Instead, try asking if she had fun, or how the team did. Remind her that the important thing is that she tried hard and did her best.
- Give constructive criticism. Mistakes are natural in any activity, and let your child know that it is ok to make mistakes. Teach him how he can learn from these, and the end result of winning, losing, or scoring a goal is not as important as the process of getting there. It is just as important to play defense or assist another team member in scoring a goal.
- Emphasize teamwork. Again, praise your child for being a team player. You can encourage and model teamwork as a parent by respecting coaches and other officials, suggesting that your child’s team congratulate their opponents, regardless of whether they win or lose, and praising all children on your child’s team.
For more tips for coaches, parents, and players of youth sports, visit www.masshockey.com/Effort/ and learn about Encouraging Fairness, Fun, Opportunity, Respect, and Teamwork.
This information was compiled by Sunindia Bhalla, and reviewed by the Program Staff of the Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund.
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