As the parent of an athlete, your actions influence his experience on and off the field. Too much pressure, lack of participation or poor sportsmanship on the part of parents can take the enjoyment out of the sport for young players. Whether you coach the team or cheer from the sidelines, understanding how your participation influences your child and helps him have a positive experience.
Before your child starts playing, you can participate by helping him choose a sport and the type of team. For example, you might steer him toward a recreational soccer team as an introduction to the sport instead of a competitive league. Youth sports leagues often use volunteer coaches -- usually parents -- to teach kids the basics of the sport. If you choose to coach, keep the players as the focus. Treat your own child the same as you treat other children to keep the experience positive for him. Other participation options include fundraisers, cheering from the sidelines and volunteering for tasks, such as providing snacks or keeping score. Your participation shows your child that you care about him and his interests.
A parent's attitude on and off the field affects the child's sports experience. A child who constantly receives criticism about his performance from his parents might feel discouraged or incompetent. Keep conversations about the sport positive, and let your young athlete guide the conversation. If he doesn't want to talk about the game, don't force the topic. Your behavior during the game is also an influence. Displaying poor sportsmanship such as harassing refs or booing the other team teaches your child to do the same. To create a positive experience, cheer on your child and his teammates without being mean-spirited to the other team.
The Women's Sports Foundation describes the relationship among coaches, players and parents as a triangle. To create a positive experience for the kids, the coaches and parents need to take a support role at the bottom of the triangle, with the kids' needs at the top. Being a supportive parent means being there physically for your child as a spectator and supporting him mentally. This means celebrating victories and helping your young athlete handle defeat. You also create a positive experience by supporting and trusting the coach -- as long as he is responsible and keeps the young players safe.
A 2012 "Psychology Today" article emphasizes the importance of balancing sports participation with other activities for better development. As the parent, you have control over your child's participation in sports. If you provide the means for him to consistently play a particular sport, you can support the development of his skills. When you notice his schedule is out of balance with too much emphasis on sports, you have the power to scale back his participation.
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