Sports parenting faces the same issues around the world and the same topics continue to crop up in our discussions with clubs, coaches and parents.
With large numbers of sports globally struggling to maintain and improve their participation numbers at junior levels, what can we do as sporting parents to help to try and buck this trend?
Here are a few ideas that will give your child the best possible of chance of gaining the most from their sporting experience.
Sports Parenting Tip 1 – Do your job!
The role of the parent of a child who plays sport is far more important than they – the parents – realise.
Think of the coach, the athlete and the sports parent as partners: a team united and committed to helping children to be all they can be.
Each of these partners – the coach, the athlete and the sports parent have very clear roles and responsibilities.
Coaches Coach – They provide technical leadership, physical training, skills development opportunities, instruction of tactics and strategies and help to foster in young athletes that most important athletic quality of all: a love of the sport.
Children – all we can ever really ask of them is to give the best they’re capable of.
Sports Parents……what do you do? Many, many important things including:
- Consistently provide unconditional love, support and acceptance of their child not for what the child does – but for who they are as a human being;
- All the practical things….paying the bills, providing shelter, driving children to sports training, to school etc.
- Building and nurturing values like honesty, integrity, humility, courage, respect, discipline and sincerity.
- Building and nurturing character traits like commitment, confidence, resilience, hard work and dedication.
The importance of consistent and committed quality sports parenting is critical.
Because it’s the parents who are largely responsible for helping to develop the person who plays, practices and performs.
Physical talent – when it comes to young children – is over-rated. All it (physical talent) does is get sporting children recognised and opens the door to junior sports development programs and junior representative teams.
What’s far more important than physical talent – (noting that physical talent is harder to hide than it is to find) – are the human qualities: values, virtues and character traits and it is parents who – more than coaches, more than teachers, more than anyone else in the child’s life, who build and grow these core attributes of human beings.
Sports Parenting Tip 2: Don’t do their job!
I love my children.
And I know you love yours too.
And I know that because you love them so much that you want to do it all for them…fill their drink bottles, clean up their dirty sports gear, empty their dirty sports bags, pick up their wet towels, set their alarms, carry their bikes, clean their football boots, adjust their googles…I understand it – I get it – I really do.
But…you’re not helping them.
Three essential qualities for a young athlete to develop are:
- To be independent – to do it for themselves;
- To learn responsibility for every aspect of their training, preparation and performance;
- To accept accountability for the decisions they make and don’t make in their sporting life.
We know that confidence is important – not just in sport – but in every aspect of life.
And we know that confidence comes from knowing: and that knowing comes from doing.
By doing everything for your sporting children, you’re actually achieving the exact opposite of what they need from you: you’re creating dependence while not allowing them to learn responsibility or to accept accountability.
The lesson is simple: STOP DOING IT!
Teach your sporting children to do all the little things: to take responsibility for all those small jobs and seemingly tiny tasks and as they learn more – and as they can do more – watch them grow in confidence every day.
Sports Parenting Tip Number 3: Never give up on doing your job!
Your children will face challenges throughout their lives.
Sometimes things will work out fine – and life will be wonderful.
Occasionally things won’t work out well and they’ll face hardship, pain, difficulty and heartbreak.
In sport – they’ll experience ups and downs, wins and losses, successes and failures…and it’s all normal: it’s all part of the life of someone who plays sport. No one can – or does – win all the time.
Throughout it all – across all the euphoric highs and the disappointing lows – you – as a sports parent – need to keep doing your “job”.
If they win: love them, accept them, value them and treasure every moment with them.
If they lose: love them, accept them, value them and treasure every moment with them.
For the sports parent, winning and losing are the same.
There can not be any difference in the way you think about – talk about or feel about your kids regardless of their sports results.
It doesn’t mean you don’t feel their pain when they don’t achieve the sporting success that they – and you – feel they might deserve. And it doesn’t mean you can’t party with them when they score that winning goal or break a record or achieve something remarkable on the sporting field.
What it does mean is that as a sports parent, the way you love, accept and value your kids is not dependent on their sporting performances.
Too many parents talk about their kids as “the swimmer” or “the basketballer” or “the tennis player”.
In other words, they identify their children by what they do.
Of all the things a sports parent can do – this is perhaps the worst.
Your child – no matter how talented they may be – is not a swimmer or a basketballer or a tennis player….they are an amazing human being who just happens to swim or play or hit tennis balls. Their sport does not define them. It is not who they are.
However, if you take the time and make the effort to help them become the human being you know they can be, if you can help them learn and grow values and virtues, if you can help them to become independent through accepting responsibility and accountability in their lives….then – if they’ve got talent – they’ll make it.
If who they are defines what they do and not the other way around…you’ve done a brilliant job mum and dad: a job you can sincerely be proud of.
- Sports Parenting is an important job: it’s perhaps the most important job anyone in the sports industry can do. Sports parents can have a considerable influence – not just on their child’s ability to kick a ball or swim a lap or wave a racket – but more importantly they can positively and powerfully influence every aspect of their child’s life.
- Focus on building, growing and nurturing that remarkable young person who lives in your house.If they can play sport well – that’s great. If they end up becoming a sporting champion – that’s marvelous. But when it comes down to it, what would you prefer – an Olympic Gold medal around their neck – or a wonderful, wide smile on their face – a smile which is there because they’ve become that happy, contented, humble, loving, selfless person you’ve always hoped they’d be?
- All they need is love. If your child loves what they do, if they learn to love and accept themselves for who they are (i.e. and not for what they do) and if they know with absolute certainty that they are loved, valued and accepted by you for no reason other than they are your child….then the world – and all that’s in it – is theirs.
Thank you to our good friend Wayne Goldsmith for allowing us to adapt this piece. You can find the full and original article here: