Lazy Parenting Hack - Be a GREAT Sports Parent
I recently had the privilege of joining a fellow sports mom & entrepreneur, Nadia Kyba, on her YouTube channel “Now What”. We filmed an episode of “Sports Moms in Cars Drinking Coffee”. She thought it would be fun to have me, a mom of 4 multi-sport, high-level athletes, share some of my experiences and the lessons I have learnt on how to be a great sports parent!
So here they are:
Let the coaches coach! Your role is to be your child’s biggest supporter on the sideline/in the stands. This means cheering for them, encouraging them but NOT giving instructions! Don’t confuse your child by coaching from the sidelines. I don’t care if you are were an Olympian in the same sport! You are not the coach. You are the parent. Every time you interject or offer your ‘expert’ advice, you undermine the coach’s role and cause damage to your child’s relationship with the coach. You are creating an athlete that cares more about you on the sideline than the instructions the coach is giving them. You may even be teaching them that their results as an individual (because they are trying to please you) are more important that the results of the team as a whole. You are in actuality, creating an uncoachable athlete.
Let you child speak for themself. It is important to help them learn the tools with which to handle conflict. It is important to help them learn the importance and power of their voice/opinions. These life skills are vitally important to their development into independent, confident and well-spoken leaders. Depending on their age, you may want to attend meetings with them. However, do not speak over them! Keep your mouth closed and allow them to use their own words and tell the coach what they may be concerned about, struggling with or needing clarification on. When there is conflict, remember the following:
Follow the 24hr rule when upset. Wait and give yourself time to cool down before reaching out with a concern or a requesting a meeting. Nothing good ever comes from being in the heat of the moment when our hormones and emotions are out of control. A good strategy here is to write down your thoughts and concerns but then LEAVE THEM ALONE for 24hours and come back to it. You may have a different perspective the next day.
Always ask for an in person meeting for any topic/concern that may be emotional or sensitive in nature. Do not attempt to explain and send them in an email or text! I do recommend that after the 24hrs has elapsed, give the coach a heads up before the meeting to ensure they can come prepared and thoughtful about the issue. Remember that many of our youth coaches are volunteers. They are involved in coaching because they are passionate about the sport and about making a difference in their athletes’ lives. Be respectful.
Take off your parent goggles. While you may have eyes for your child only when they are on the field/court/mat, be careful that you aren’t losing sight of the bigger picture and of your child’s role within the team. Our children often get it better than we do. They inherently know their place on a team and often have a very good understanding of their role or their place in the hierarchy of a team. It is important to be mindful and have the self-awareness that you aren’t placing any value on yourself as a parent due to your child’s success in sports. You aren’t a good or bad parent based on how strong of an athlete your child is! It is important that your child knows your love for them has nothing to do with their success or skill acquisition. Ensure they know that you admire them/are proud of them for their hard work ethic, their commitment to the team, their persistence and demonstrated leadership skills. We must remember that sports should be a fun, stress relieving, happiness-inducing activity!
Don’t be the first to speak. When your child comes off the field, off the court or out of the pool, let them give you their opinion/judgement of how practice or the game went. While I will always believe the ONLY THING you should say to your child after a game/practice is “I really enjoyed watching you play/practice today”, if your child chooses to share more - listen only! You can ask clarifying questions to ensure you are hearing what they are saying, but be sure to keep your opinions to yourself, even if asked. Watch yourself carefully with your responses and try not to give an opinion but rather continue to probe and ask questions to help THEM figure out how they feel.
Choose sports and sports organizations that have the same philosophy as your family. If the idea of a multi-sport athlete is important to you and your family places a high value on this, be sure to pick sports in which the coaches have the same ideology! If you don’t, you and your athlete will be constantly fighting conflicting values/ideology every time your child has to miss a practice or be late to a game. This can cause great stress to your family, your child and it will affect the athlete-coach relationship. Another great thing to keep in mind is that you can’t complain about the organization if you aren’t willing to step in and help. Youth sports organizations are often looking for help whether as team managers, board members, equipment set up etc… If you are available to volunteer in any capacity, do it. I also encourage you to seek out and find the other parents on the team that have the same philosophy as you about why your child is in the sport. Be sure to surround yourself with the positive and encouraging parents! Walk away from the toxic ones. It is REALLY important to not get pulled into any negativity. This does no one any good and ultimately will adversely affect your child’s enjoyment of sports!
And there you have it! My advice garnered from over 30+ combined years of being a sports parent AND being a coach. Above all else, keep in the forefront of your mind the reason WHY you registered your child for sports. I truly hope it is to help them be more active/healthy, to become better humans and learn life long skills that will make them amazing adults. Nothing else. Be the shining light on your child and keep your child’s enjoyment and love of their sport at the center of it all. Smile and encourage them. Ensure that their memories of you and your involvement in their sports are positive ones!