How To Be A Great Sports Parents Without Getting Kicked Off The Field

It can be a totally proud moment when your tiny t-baller steps up to the plate for his first swing. But when he misses the pitch, you might be tempted to mouth off at the coach, umpire, pitcher—and anyone else who might have caused your kid to miss his big moment. Thing is, when your child becomes involved in sports, you’ll need to know how to be a great sports parent without getting kicked off the field.

Although you obviously want to show support for your star athlete, sometimes all that sideline screaming can prove to be a difficult distraction for a child. “In the heat of competition, it can be difficult for parents to be mindful of their emotions and excitement,” says Natalie Mica, a licensed professional counselor in Houston, TX. “Therefore, it is vital that parents recognize their own triggers and set boundaries and accountability for how they react when tension mounts.”

The next time you’re at your child’s game, encourage his love for the sport (and avoid some cringe worthy sports parents moments) with these tips.

It’s Not About You

When your kid drops the ball or trips on his way to a touchdown, you have to remember that it’s your kid doing it, not you. “Your child’s performance is not a reflection of you and your ability,” says Mica. “Stop viewing your child through the lens of your pride or your past experiences, positive or negative.” Instead, recognize this sports endeavor as your child’s opportunity to engage in healthy and enjoyable physical activity, regardless of their ability and performance. Sometimes enjoyment can (and should) be the goal.

Let The Coach Do His Job

Your child’s team has a coach for a reason. And while you might think that you can do a better job (and you may or may not be right), you still need to respect the rank and let the coach do his job before, during, and after the game. “There will be many times in your child’s future where he or she will need the skills learned from taking instructions from other adults, and sports provides a great opportunity to hone this skill,” says Mica. “Undermining a coach teaches your child to do the same which might not pan out well for them in a future work situation.” And while it is totally fine to do practice and skill development sessions with your child, allow your child to be trained by his coach.

Don’t Get Political

Let’s say that your kiddo has been on the bench more than he’s actually been on the court. Before you swoop down and let the coach have a piece of your mind, take a minute to breathe. “Assume your child is being treated fairly, and don’t make it political,” says Mica. “Your child may not be playing because there is a talent differential.” After all, children recognize and can learn to accept these differentials until parents and others teach them otherwise.

Be Courteous

It’s completely normal (and acceptable) to root and cheer your pint-sized player on. What’s not cool: making rude comments and gestures in the stands about your child or a teammate. “Doing something like this can embarrass, humiliate, or shame children,” advises Mica. “This can stay with a child long after the immediate experience.” And if you find that you can’t control your emotions, it might be a good idea to walk away for a little while to regroup until you’ve got it back together again.

Accept Your Athlete

Your child might be a mini Messi in the making — and then suddenly decide to switch soccer for basketball. Children can fall in and out of love easily with sports, and it’s up to parents to help guide them along their journey without steering them into a sport they no longer like. “Children may love a sport, but this does not mean they intend to be an elite athlete,” says Mica. “Always check in with your child so they get the opportunity to set their own goals and activity levels.”

Don’t Be Too Picky

You notice that your child tends to hesitate before trying to steal a base, and sometimes it’s caused him to be out. While you can point this error out to him, make sure that you don’t make him feel badly about it. “While it is okay to practice and work with your child on skills development, make sure not to employ constant correction for everything they do wrong,” says Mica. “Performance perfection should not be the standard.” So make sure to spend time going over the positive things they do as well, such as their effort, improvement, and overall progress.

It’s important to encourage your child’s love for the game. When he plays sports, he’ll learn how to work together in a team, and it can not only build positive self-esteem, but reduce stress, too. So help your child be the best player he can by being the best sports parent you can be. That way, your child’s sports experience will be an excellent one — for everyone.

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