They say there is no manual for parenting. When it comes to parents of young athletes, I beg to differ. There really is a right and wrong way to behave at a youth sporting event. When the competition is close, it can be easy to get carried away. But how you handle that excitement can make a huge impact on your child's experience. The sidelines at youth sporting events are a chance to see the best and worst in human behavior. Here's how to not become THAT parent.
We've all seen those parents on the sidelines trying to relive their high school glory days. Obviously, you should care about your athlete emotionally and physically. And who doesn't enjoy a win? But don't get caught up in the wins or the losses, the plays, the calls the refs make, or the other parents. Focus on your child and whether or not they are enjoying themselves. Your child could lose every single game and still be happy that they got to do something fun... unless they have to face your disappointment.
If a earning scholarship is your main goal, you're better off nurturing another hobby (like academics) because the chances for a scholarship are slim. In fact, only 2% of high school athletes move on to play collegiately and are awarded athletic financial aid. Aside from that, the value of sports is so much more than a scholarship. Kids learn invaluable skills like sportsmanship, teamwork, communication, physical literacy and so much more.
Actions speak louder than words. Your child won't learn to have self control and respect authority if they see you scolding the ref over one bad call. Show them a parent who stays calm and handles conflict maturely.
Don't yell at your own kids and, definitely, don't yell at anyone else's. Yelling criticism is not constructive and will most likely drive your child away from sports.
Keep the conversation light on the rides home and focus on the positives of the game. Don't over analyze and strategize their every play. If they are feeling disappointed about a loss, focus on the future and give them some encouraging words like "If you work hard and practice, you can do better the next game"
Yes, we know the refs are evil fun suckers out to get your team (or perhaps they're a real human trying to earn a couple bucks). But this is not professional sports and there are no review cameras. Even if they made the wrong call, it's not worth the commotion, embarrassment, and possibly getting kicked out of the game. Like we mentioned before, care less. Don't get caught up with officials' decisions and enjoy watching your child.
Leave coaching to the coach. You might put your child in a tough spot if you are undermining what the coach is saying. It can lead them to feel like they need to choose between what their parents says and what their coach says. If there's an issue, try to let your athlete work it out with the coach themselves. Step in when necessary. Your role as a parent is to provide support, encouragement, and resources. You are the cheerleader.
When it comes to parenting an athlete there can be a fine line. You want to be encouraging without being over bearing. You want to provide constructive criticism without being too pushy. Continue to clap, hug and cheer them on. Just know that as long as your child is out on the field happy and active, you've done a job well done.