Everyone, at some point or another, has encountered one of those parents during a youth sports game. They exist in all age ranges and for all possible sports: Adults who scream and shout for their child but harass anyone—be it a referee, coach, fellow parent, or even child—who they think has gotten in the way of their little superstar’s glory. These parents might lavish expensive equipment or private lessons on their child, and as a rule, they place the desire to win above all else.
Parents such as these are often caricatured and identified as a problem in youth sports because of their aggressive behavior, but this rush to point out what others have done wrong prevents us from realizing what we can do better. Of course, we do need to call out harmful conduct when it occurs, but we also need to counteract negative examples of youth sports parents with positive ones. With that in mind, take a look below at what you can do to be a great youth sports parent.
Avoid Taking Ownership of Your Child’s Experience
How often do you find yourself saying, “We won” or “We lost” after your child’s games? Do you ever offer explanations for why your child struck out or missed the buzzer-beating shot? These behaviors may seem innocent enough, but they suggest that you are making your child’s youth sports experience about you and not them: Your son or daughter won, not you, and they don’t need you to cover for them for a mistake they made on the field. Youth sports should be about growth and fun for your child, so avoid taking ownership of their experience so it doesn’t focus on your expectations and pride.
Celebrate the Process, Not the Scoreboard
There’s nothing wrong with congratulating your child for a well-deserved win, but it does become a problem when they start to think that victory is the only measure of success. Beyond the final score, highlight a skill or a virtue that your child excelled in: Compliment them for the hard work they put into the win, for example, or for how they did a good job with the follow through on their swing at bat. This teaches kids to measure growth in terms of growth and effort rather than just wins or losses.
Youth sports is a huge commitment for parents. It means constantly chauffeuring your child to practices and games, washing and preparing uniforms, visits to the doctor for physicals or after injuries, and more. While all this activity is a lot on your plate, avoid complaining about it to your kids; you don’t want them to feel like their youth sports experience is a burden to you, otherwise it will cause your children to have anxiety that you resent their participation in youth sports.