Sports are exciting, engaging, and entertaining. Most athletes spend hours training, practicing, and honing their skills so they can perform to the best of their ability. And it’s no secret that watching a live team sport event can bring out the competitive nature in even the most passive of people. This is especially true when it comes to parents watching their children play on their school sports teams.
We have all been witness to the familiar scene of a parent becoming a little too involved in what’s happening on the court, field, or in the pool. Maybe you have been that parent a time or two! Your tone of voice suddenly goes from cheering to jeering, your words from encouraging to discouraging, or your facial expressions from happy to hostile. What happens? The answer, in most cases, is a simple one. In our desire to see our student-athletes succeed, our need for them to ‘win’ or ‘perform’ overrides the need for them to do their best or enjoy themselves. Sports are meant to be enjoyed, remember?
Here are a few ways to practice being the best fan of your student-athlete.
Let the Coach, coach.
The coach is a wonderful buffer between you and your athlete. This is especially true if you struggle with having a highly competitive nature yourself. You have the opportunity to let the coach be the one to give corrections and constructive criticism. Part of the coach’s job is to acknowledge the failures and struggles on the field and to address them as they see fit.
Additionally, the coach is another adult authority figure in your child’s life who has an opportunity to teach your child responsibility, the value of hard work, strength of character, and teamwork. They don’t call them coaches for nothing!
Make a commitment to support.
Because support can mean different things to different people, let’s define it in more specific terms. Think of supporting your student-athlete as coming alongside them to offer help and encouragement, and offering assistance when they ask for it (or keeping quiet when they don’t). As difficult or uncomfortable as this may seem, think of yourself as your child’s cheerleader. You are there to bring positive words of affirmation into your child’s performance, always encouraging future improvements and growth. No athlete can perform perfectly 100% of the time, especially students. It is important that failure on the field is used as a learning experience and not as a tool to shame our children.
Remember, sports are meant to be enjoyed, and nothing sucks the fun out of something faster than shame and disappointment. Be your child’s biggest cheerleader. Always!
It’s typically easy for our kids to be committed to an activity when they excel in it or when everything seems to be going their way. However, when their playing time gets cut short, they are no longer starting, or they are relegated to water duty, commitment to the team suddenly becomes shaky ground. It is in these seemingly insignificant or even painful moments that true character is developed. As parents, part of our responsibility to our children is to encourage their commitment to finish what they started, even when it’s hard, boring, or from their perspective, pointless. Committing to finish what you have started, especially when it isn’t as easy as you thought, is a part of Life Skills 101.
Whether our children are in their younger years or teenagers, they are still growing and developing. Our words, facial expressions, and actions all contribute to their growing process, so it’s important to be intentional about our reactions and responses to their performances on and off the field. By being committed to being supportive and encouraging (no matter the performance) to our student-athletes, we are establishing ourselves as a reliable place for our children to come whenever life bears down on them, even well into their adult years. That is much more valuable than winning any game could ever be.