For parents and children to fully enjoy and gain the most from a positive sporting experience, there are a number of key things that parents must be willing and able to commit to.
If parents can make the following 5 commitments they will have gone a long way to ensuring that the sporting experience for their child and for themselves is as fruitful and productive as possible.
Hand over responsibility of your child to the coach
This requires putting the child in the coach’s charge and trusting him or her to guide the sporting experience. It involves accepting the coach’s authority. This commitment does not mean that parents cannot have an input, but the coach is the key figure. Many issues for young players come because the parents can contradict and often add too much input, often going against what a coach has communicated in a training session or after a match. If parents are going to undermine the coach’s leadership, it will be very difficult for the child to understand which voice they should be listening to. This often leads to confusion, negativity and frustration.
Accept that your child is going to have disappointments
Every child athlete experiences “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” as part of the competition process. In addition to enjoying the positives, parents are called on to support their children when they are disappointed and hurt. This may mean not being embarrassed, ashamed, or angry when their son or daughter is upset about something that has happened in training or matches. When an apparent disappointment occurs, parents should be able to guide their children through the process and get their child to understand that failure should only be seen as an opportunity to learn. If a parent can turn a negative into a positive learning opportunity they will have helped clear a major obstacle in their child’s sporting development.
Display self control and show positive body language at all times
Parents should be reminded that they are important role models for their children’s behaviour. It is not surprising that parents who lose control of themselves often have children who are prone to emotional outbursts and poor self-discipline.
During training and matches children will often look over at their parents and we should always be displaying a smile and giving off as many positive signals as possible. I can guarantee your children will be watching you.
Commit some time to your child’s sporting experience
Parents need to decide how much time can be devoted to their children’s sport activities and try to ensure logistically that they are allowing their children to participate as fully as possible in training sessions and matches. Sometimes this may require asking for help from other parents or even coaches but it is important that children feel properly part of any experience. Coaches should be encouraging parents to ask their children about their sporting experiences and make every effort to watch some of their games.
Encourage your child to make their own decisions and become self-organised
Accepting responsibility for one’s own behaviour and decisions is an essential part of growing up. Coaches and parents should encourage children to make their own decisions and also help them in taking a large ownership of their sporting experience. This includes children packing their own kit, been responsible for time keeping and sorting out some of their own logistics. Within reasonable limits, parents should let the child go his or her own way. (With a little bit of checking).