By Janis B. Meredith is a youth-sports parenting blogger, podcaster, and parent coach. She helps busy sports parents by providing resources to guide them as they strive to give their children a positive and growing youth-sports experience. Her book 11 Habits for Happy and Positive Sports Parents can be found on Amazon.
Your child has worked super hard back at school and has made the team. Now, parents, do you have what it takes to sit on the sidelines and watch?
Being a sports-parent spectator is not as easy as it looks. That’s your child out there, running around on the court or field and you are very emotionally invested in his or her happiness and safety.
But if you really want your child to have a good youth-sports experience, you must understand what it means to be their cheerleader. Here are 5 tips to help you:
Stay seated. If you are a parent who paces the sidelines, hovers behind home plate, or stands up and yells from the bleachers, you are most likely distracting your child from playing her best. When you are not hovering, pacing, and showing your emotions in a myriad of other ways, I’m pretty sure your child will relax and even play better. Seeing and hearing your tension will only make her more tense and no athlete can do her best when she’s worried about what her parents are thinking.
Of course, every now and then — when the game is tight or your child is facing a big challenge — you may understandably feel the need to stand up or pace a bit. Just don’t let it be a distraction to your child.
No coaching please. You have entrusted your child to the instruction of his coaches. Let him or her do their job. At home, it’s okay to discuss strategies to help her become a better player, but this should not be done from the bleachers. Your child needs to focus on the game and on what his coach is telling him; not on you yelling instructions.
Keep your cheering positive. Acknowledge a good play or smart choice, but refrain from shouting Don’t messages. Don’t strike out! Don’t miss the tackle! Don’t mess up this shot! Yelling these types of instructions causes your child to focus on the Don’t instead of the Do.
Be intentional on the car ride home. It’s easy to get carried away in the emotion of the game and start pointing out your child’s mistakes and what she needed to do better. Instead, let the car ride home be a place where your child drives the conversation. If she has questions, then answer them, but if she doesn’t want to talk about it, then let it go. One remark such as “I loved watching you play today” is really all that she needs to hear.
Support, don’t push. Although there are gentle and positive ways to help motivate your kids, the pushiness that many sports-parents practice is not what being a cheerleader means.
A cheerleader is one who leads by cheering, not by nagging, cajoling or forcing their opinions on someone. And quite honestly, those methods rarely produce the long term results that will help your child have a positive and lasting youth-sports experience.
The best way to cheer your kids on to reach their potential is by being the type of sports parent who sees the big picture value of sports and the lessons they can teach kids. Having that perspective allows you to focus on what’s really important in the long run, and that will free you up to be the cheerleader your child needs.
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