Sports Parenting Tips for Maximum Sport (and Life) Results
One of the more common conversations in my office centers around how parents should guide their kids through sport participation, specifically as this applies to keeping sports fun and meaningful while tamping down problems like sport burnout, over-training, and unsportsmanlike behaviors. While there is not a one-size-fits-all answer to how to attain this perfect balance, there are a few ideas sport parents can consider using as the foundation for their approach to youth sports. Rather than viewing sports as a tool to help get a future college scholarship, try to instead use sports as a means of holistic human growth and life skill development in order to truly maximize the experience.
3 important ingredients to success
I like to keep things simple when I work with families, and one philosophy I have used that usually leads to positive sport outcomes centers around basic, healthy ideas that every kid can use. My 3 pillars to youth sport success include the following:
- Listen to parents, teachers, and coaches. Teaching the kids the value of listening — active listening to be more specific — is an invaluable life skill. What this means is modeling for kids how to remain quiet, listen closely to what is being said, ask for clarification when confused, and how to display positive and inviting body language when in the company or others. So much of life success is based on listening closely to directions, and if we know adults sometimes struggle listening, then we know this is a challenging task for kids as well.
- Try your best. Effort is everything in life! Sadly, many people become paralyzed by the fear of failure and as a result don’t try. Teach your kids how to overcome the fear of failure by providing unconditional love and support, and regularly talk about effort, not results. When kids feel safe and that they are free to fail without consequence, they in turn begin to play harder and experience positive results. And the best part? Every kid can try!
- Have fun. The #1 reason why kids play sports is to have fun, but in too many cases “fun” is replaced by sports feeling more like a job to kids. Rather than always focusing on the next big game, tournament, or league you are about to join, instead try and focus on high-5’s, positive encouragement, smiles, and laughs. The more fun your child has playing sports, the more focused and motivated he/she will be to play his or her best. And remember, “fun” starts with you and the attitude you bring to the field — when you smile and laugh, the kids around you will routinely reciprocate those behaviors.
When it comes to sport (and life) success, oftentimes the “secrets” are actually quite basic concepts that everyone can learn. With youth sports, kids can easily be taught the importance and value of active listening, putting forth all their effort, and experiencing fun while striving to play their best. Of course, these efforts are greatly improved upon when parents teach and model these same behaviors, and reward their kids with emphatic praise when they witness their kids doing the same. Sit down with your kids and inspire them to be their best by incorporating active listening, effort, and enjoyment into their daily routines so they have every chance to reach their full life potential.