I learned an invaluable lesson from the fine folks at Proactive Sports. No matter how my kids perform at a meet or a game I convey the message that I love to watch them play. That concept is why kids often prefer that their grandparents come to see them in meets. They know that there is no judgment. The older, wiser grandparents convey appreciation for just getting on the floor or field. That makes kids feel great. Parents, as observed in the last post, are often critical of performance for many reasons but mostly because they want their child to do better. What I think is funny is that those same accepting grand folks that just love those kids to pieces were the same ones who railed on us for missing a catch or blowing a play. I guess there is something to be said for becoming wiser with age.
As you know from previous postings, I am a big believer in kids being in sport to help them develop into healthy and functional members of society; and in the last post I explained how parents sometimes inadvertently lead their kids away from sports. So it’s only fair that we discuss a few things that will make them love the sports, love being a player and love you parents even more than they do.
First BE A TRUE FAN, at Gymfinity we encourage parents to cheer for good gymnastics where ever it may come from. We ask them to appreciate the performance of every kid at a meet, not just the kids from Gymfinity. If the parent loves the sport, the child will love doing the sport. Its that simple.
We also tell parents that when they are in the stands that they represent their daughter or son. Would your child be proud of your behavior? There should be no bleacher talk or negative criticism of athletes, coaches, programs, judges, or meets. When your child see that you are supportive and positive it allows them to perform confidently knowing that when they do their best, you will accept it. If kids have a bad meet or game, they know it, and they don’t need to hear from another person that it didn’t go well. One of the best examples I can think of is when we travelled over 8 hours to a big meet and my gymnast did not perform optimally. I discussed with her where we needed to apply our efforts before the next meet and we weighed out positives from the experience and lessons we could own from the negatives. She felt awful, but was accepting. When we went over by her mom and dad, her dad picked her up and hugged her without saying a word. The mom said, “where would you like to eat, your choice?” Unconditional, affectionate and accepting. Well done.
Lastly, at Gymfinity we explain that everyone has a role to play at a meet (or game). The athlete is there to perform. It’s what they trained for and they need our help to focus and give them their space to to do their job. The coaches job is to guide the athlete. All training should have been done before the meet/game and coaching at a competition should be limited to reinforcing performance. The coaches other job is to guarantee that the rules are working. If scores need to be questioned or inquiries made, the coach is on the job. Lastly the parent has a job too. They cheer. Period. Before, during, after. I believe that if we all respect each other’s jobs we will have a positive experience. If the roles get crossed there will be confusion and someone, or everyone, is not going to be happy.
The advice from Proactive Coaching to tell your child that you love watching them play is so important. It validates their effort, allows them space to own their own sports. When your child is ready to talk about how the meet or game went, they will give you a window of opportunity to have that conversation. When you are invited, participate. It means that now they are ready to hear your opinion. But remember that your opinion is only your opinion. It’s not the game plan for next time, its not establishing goals for your child and it’s certainly not putting conditions or their performance.
I learned that after a meet, I tell my kids how I had fun watching what they could do, that I love to see the improvements they made. I usually add about how I enjoyed talking with other team parents. My kids know that I enjoy going to meets. Usually after a bit one of them will say, “did you see when I….?” or “Did you see how I…..? Window opens and the conversation happens. But it always comes back around to how I love watching them do their stuff.