What’s the right way to be involved in your kids’ sports?
A client asked our opinion about the behaviour of some parents of kids on his child’s sports team . His son was on a level 4
team last year and is on a level 1 team this year. He said he was quite surprised by the difference in the behaviour of the parents. He went on
to explain that he found the parents to be quite intense at games and even noticed sad faces on the parents if their children’s team didn’t win. He
said he has heard a lot of negative comments about other kids during the game, observes a lot of coaching from the stands and just an overall intense feeling from many of the parents. His child is eleven. He said it was only his observation and perception of the situation but was wondering if parents get more involved (sometimes in a negative way) when their kids make a higher level team, and, if so – why?
At Parenting Power, we’re hearing this from lots of different parents around the city. We often wonder why this happens because it doesn’t happen to every parent of a child on a higher level team. Different families will respond differently and ultimately, we encourage parents to go back and refer to their ultimate goals for their children with regard to any sport or activity in which they participate.
- Is it to make the top team and win? Maybe.
- Is it for her to have the experience of learning a sport and playing on a team.
- Is it about being the best (measured by goals and wins) or about effort and persistence?
- Are the coaches (usually volunteers) trying their best – probably.
- Is your child having fun? Is he eager to go to practices and games because it is FUN, that he gets to see his buddies and he may be learning a life time sport that he will enjoy playing his whole life– just for the fun of it?
If your child isn’t initiating some unstructured play on her own with her buddies or jumping at the chance to meet her buddies at the
park or at the rink just for some good old fun, is she really having fun participating in this activity? If your child isn’t having fun and wanting to play just for the fun of it – why is he playing, who is he playing for? We encourage all families to check in from time to time and ask themselves these questions.
But there’s more at play here – sometimes, in an effort to “help” their children, parents end up coaching their kids; from the front seat of the car on the way to and from the game, and from the spectator seats. Often times, parents end up screaming an instruction from the bleachers that is the exact opposite of what a coach has asked the player to do. Then, who does the child listen to – mom/dad or the coach?
Getting involved in a child’s sporting activity means knowing where to draw the lines – what are your family’s rules on showing up for practices/games? Who will coach the child – you or the team’s coaches? How do you celebrate effort? How do you help your child to handle her disappointment? When we have a vision for how our family will handle the situation, we can stay calm in the moment and let everyone take responsibility for their own stuff : parents – to get the kids there, coaches – to coach, kids – to play, learn and have fun.