Being a Good Sports Parent (The Final Chapter)
Last part, I promise. Then I’ll go back to my soapbox on other topics. Though I would love to hear your thoughts.
In summary; here is a quick quiz to see if your child has a chance to be a champion. It’s written regardless of age but it focuses on children before high school. Record your “Yes” answers.
Q1: Do you believe your child could be a champion?
Q2: Do you find yourself telling other people that your child is a “high achiever” or something synonymous?
Q3: Do you talk about your child’s sport away from the play area, over meals or at least once a day?
Q4: Are you prepared to realistically sacrifice any part of your child’s education so they may have a better chance to become a champion?
Q5: Do you regularly ask the coach to work your child harder or to change something about the way your child plays the game?
Q6: Do you get emotionally involved in your child’s TRAINING successes and failures? (As opposed to game day success and failures).
Q7: Do you allow your child to show poor attitude, poor sportsmanship or poor behavior as a part of the game knowing that it is a natural part of the result of strong effort?
Q8: Have you ever fought with another parent/person about the results of a game/match/meet?
Q9: Do you refer to your son/daughter as my son/daughter the gymnast, hockey player, goalie etc.?
Q10: Have you spent more than $500 on equipment?
Quiz results: no fair peeking! If you answered “yes” to 2 or more of these questions, your child has a decreased chance of excelling in a sport. And what’s worse, your obsession may be the cause for their failure. We know that such obsession or over-drive is often not shared by the child and their mere participation in sports, under such conditions, causes them to develop strong negative feelings toward physicality, the specific sport and worst of all, the parent. But wait J; there are examples of “pushy parents” that had champion children. Look at Tiger Woods, his father Earl was on the sport side of Joan Crawford for parenting skills. To that I say, yes….let’s look at Tiger. His resentment of his father and golf in general led him to behave in questionable ways and perform acts disrespectful of his own family. He only returned to golf when he realized that he had nothing else. He seems happy, right?
So here is another quiz, this time from the positive perspective. Let’s see how we do on this one.
Q: 1 Can you provide encouragement and support regardless of outcomes?
Q2: Do you believe that the most important thing for your child to “get” out of sports is confidence, self belief, integrity and humility?
Q3: Do you believe that having a day or two a week just to be a kid is of value?
Q4: Can you promise not to make discussion of your child’s specific sport away from the practice area a common thing?
Q5: Do you encourage your child to develop skills in other activities and pursue their education over sport?
Q6: Can you provide a loving caring and stable family environment?
Q7: Can you stay away from gym/field/rink for a few days without getting symptoms of withdrawal?
Q8: Can you unconditionally support your child’s coach even during a patch of rough progress?
Q9: If your child wants to quit will you still show love and care unconditionally?
Q10: Can you show dignity and maturity when your child is defeated in play?
Quiz results: 2-3 answered “yes”, call me, we need to talk. 4-6 “yeses” and you’ve got a good start on a positive sport experience. 7 or more and you are a champion parent.
In closing, let me say that there is no parent’s manual to follow and our best lessons are learned by trial and error. It’s OK to make mistakes but its how you change and grow that makes it better. Children are under our sole influence as parents until they start school, this is the time to instill character and reinforce values. When children get to school, they will have influence from teachers, kids, friend’s parents, and more. When children are enrolled in sports at an early age, don’t be afraid to ask about the general (and specific) philosophy of the program or the coach. There was a study done in Canada back in the 80’s that showed that the hierarchy of influence on a child approaching teen years is #1 their friends (can’t get away from that), #2 their coaches, #3 their parents and #4 their teachers.
How can you influence the quality of the influencers? You can guarantee the quality of the circle of friends by reviewing the programs you have your child in. Friends: good programs= good people, and good people have good kids. Coaches: they rank high in influence because they have the “golden ticket”. They have direct control of the activity that validates and gives happiness to the child, so don’t underestimate the value of a coach with integrity. Parents: I have said it before and I’ll say it again (now validated by actual research), kids really want nothing more than to make their parents happy. That is an awesome responsibility on us parents. Lastly, Teachers: they are brain coaches, so they too have a golden ticket. All the rules of coaches also apply to the teachers.
In knowing that our best time to influence our sports children is when they are very young. At that age we can focus on all of the basics, mental and physical, that will ensure future success. Working with children on decision making skills and goal setting not only helps them develop lifelong strengths but allows them to feel ownership in their own success. It is also imperative that we are all on the same page and that we have the same priorities. We must all agree that parents, coaches and athletes work together in their respective roles, without infringing on anyone else’s roles. It is the only way to assure a successful sport child. So are you ready to parent a champion?
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