4 Key Sport Parenting Tips to Help Kids Grow & Excel
As you might guess, I receive a lot of questions from sport parents about what to do (and not do) in order to provide a fun and meaningful youth sport experience for their child. Of course, kids are different and have different wants, needs, and goals, but generally speaking there are a few simple ideas and concepts that all sport parents can use to increase the chances for overall youth sport success. Remember, the #1 reason why kids play sports is to have fun, so it’s important for parents to take the time necessary to help make the sport experience an exciting one for kids.
Tips for sport parents
- Parent attitude. Bring your A-game when it comes to leading your kids while involved in youth sports! This means choosing a positive and optimistic attitude, and offering genuine praise and encouragement when you can. When you do this often you will find that kids will reciprocate by mirroring this attitude not only back to you, but also to their coaches and fellow teammates.
- Reinforce effort, not just results. Often when we parent or lead others we only provide positive reinforcement when final goals are reached, but this approach actually prevents us from accelerating the process toward goals. For example, lets say your child has a great attitude, hustles, and supports teammates — but still had a tough day in the sense that he or she didn’t score. If you were to only offer hearty praise for scoring, a lot would be missed, including all the positive outcomes that occurred (i.e. improved team chemistry and cohesion) because of your child’s efforts. Kids are also more inclined to improve focus, motivation, and resiliency when parents regularly reward hard work and effort, so make a point to capture these teachable moments.
- Allow time for emotions. The absolute worst time to try and help your child improve his or her sport skills is to begin coaching immediately after a bad game (i.e. as soon as you get in the car). When kids are emotional they are far less likely to be open to your advice, and the feedback you provide will likely be offset by the frustration, sadness, and possibly embarrassment they are feeling after a tough outing. A general rule of thumb is to wait until the next day so emotions can run their course and your child will be better prepared to have an honest, important conversation about future improvement.
- Work together for future improvement. While it may be true that you, the parent, might have better expertise when it comes to the things your child should work on in order to improve in sports, getting your child’s buy-in will increase dramatically if you empower your child to be part of the problem-solving solution. Try using open-ended questions (i.e. “What ideas do you have that might help?”) and listen closely to what your child says — while you might not use all of his or her ideas, it’s still important to validate the contributions as much as possible.
Most parents are pleasantly surprised to see the return on investment they witness when they promote a great attitude, reinforce effort, allow kids to deal with emotions, and empower kids to be a meaningful part of future improvement plans. The tips provided here can work with any kid, any sport, and any age group — the key is for parents to commit to being a meaningful part of the youth sport process, and remaining open to creative ideas that go beyond simply telling kids to “work harder.”