If you really want to help your child do his best, if you really want to help him succeed, and if you really want to help him grow and develop as a person and as a player, then remember these three words: chill, cheer, and unchain.
They will change the environment of youth sports in your home, league, and even in your community.
When I say that you need to chill as a sports parent, I’m not advocating that you act disinterested in the event. And I’m not even suggesting that you shouldn’t be nervous.
I’ve sat through many football, softball, basketball, baseball, and volleyball games with a knot in my stomach. When my son was the varsity quarterback, when my oldest daughter was varsity catcher in softball, and when my youngest played varsity libero in volleyball, my stomach was so clenched I often couldn’t eat before games.
No, when I say chill, I mean that you should not be so obsessed about your child’s performance that you can’t see the bigger picture of sports. When that happens, parents will place way too much emphasis on stats, press clippings and awards, and they are the ones that are noticeably uptight and controlling when it comes to their children’s sports.
Parent who chill understand that the most important part of sports is who your child becomes in the process of competition. Someday, he will outgrow sports, but he will never outgrow the character lessons he learns while playing.
Maybe your child’s game was a disastrous loss. Or your daughter only played one inning. Or maybe she got in the game only to strike out.
Your first reaction might be to think that there was absolutely nothing to celebrate after that performance. But when your child has days like that, it’s time to look closer. I believe that underneath the mistakes, embarrassment, and frustration, there is always something to celebrate.
Whether it’s recognizing athletic skills, good plays, leadership, good sportsmanship–or even just being thankful that your child can play sports at all–there is always a reason to cheer.
Cheering for the little victories may not come easy for those of you who are in the habit of only cheering for the big stuff, like touchdowns, home runs, or baskets made. You must practice the habit of looking for the small victories that are in every competition.
Part of a parent’s job is to be in control . . . at least for a while. But the other part of a parent’s job is to prepare our children to be in control. And that’s why you must start “unchaining” them a little bit at a time.
Let your child make mistakes, and show him how to learn from them.
Encourage him to fight his own battles, whether it’s confronting a coach or a teammate.
Teach him how to make his own choices and how to understand the consequences of those choices.
Resist the temptation to always make his path a smooth and easy one. There are times to step in and help, and there are times to let him figure it out.
Being a sports parent can be all-consuming and emotionally draining, adding another layer of challenge to the already demanding job of parenting. But I am convinced that if you can remember to chill, cheer, and unchain, your sports parenting experience will be much more enjoyable—for you and your child.
Janis B. Meredith writes a sportsparenting blog, http://jbmthinks.com. She’s been a sports mom for 20 years, and a coach’s wife for 28, and sees life from both sides of the bench. You can also follow her on facebook and twitter.