We’ve all heard horror stories about bad parental behavior at youth sporting events. Arguing with coaches, second-guessing officials, or picking fights with other parents have become all-too-common occurrences at what are supposed to be fun, recreational activities for kids. Assuming you can control your behavior, what are other ways parents can support young athletes?
Let Your Child Choose Their Sport
This is not the time to relive your own childhood sports glory, and your child isn’t there to provide you with a do-over for that time your team lost a big game back in middle school. Your kid’s sport may not be your sport—they may even know more about the sport they choose than you do. Your job is to educate yourself about their choice, show up, and model adult, appropriate behavior.
Teach Good Sportsmanship
Help your child maintain a positive attitude and be gracious in both victory and defeat. Remember that video of the kid who struck out his best childhood buddy to win a championship? Instead of immediately joining a victory celebration, he ran toward home plate to give his devastated friend a hug. Don’t permit badmouthing of teammates and opponents, and don’t shame them for mistakes or poor play.
Provide Appropriate Equipment
This doesn’t mean you need to buy out the sporting goods store to obtain every new gadget or garment that comes along. Every sport, such as baseball, has some basic essentials your child will feel incomplete without. While the team may provide uniforms (for a fee, no doubt) your child may ask you to buy some extras, like protective equipment, sunglasses, or special gloves. Don’t immediately dismiss the request as unreasonable—you may find gently used equipment for a discounted price, or you can afford a splurge on a mouthguard or special socks, that will give your athlete more confidence.
Support Coaches and Officials
Games have rules; otherwise, they wouldn’t be games. Coaches and officials have likely volunteered their time to help kids have a chance to play. Accepting the occasional bad call graciously is part of the game. Learning that coaches and officials are human too is also an important life lesson. You should make sure your kid knows they can talk to you about their coaches and anything the coaches does as well. Unfortunately, some coaches have turned out to be bullies, or worse, so keep an eye out.
Listen to Your Child
If you notice your kid grows reluctant to participate in their sport, it’s time to talk. Youth sports are, above all else, supposed to be fun. If it’s not fun anymore, you need to know why and take action. It’s your role to listen and help your kid work out their next move in athletics, which may include deciding they’d rather have guitar lessons or take a dance class. One of the ways parents can support young athletes is knowing when it’s time to let your kid move on to something else.