Our four year old son just started playing flag football this spring and it has been an absolute blast! My husband also happens to be a coach. The supportive mom and wife that I am, I get pretty excited (VOCAL) on the sideline. We’re a competitive family and regardless of the situation, it’s a hard instinct to turn off. However, when I stop and think about my children and their experience playing sports, I want it to be positive. Both my husband and I played sports for a number of years and my husband has coached from youth to collegiate athletics. We realize how our conduct at athletic events — on the sideline, interactions with coaches, referees, players and spectators, post-game conversation — all impact how our children view sports. We want to do our part in helping our children have a positive experience with athletics. So, we developed some guidelines and tips to consider to help us do our best to stay in check as sports parents. Key words: do our best!
Why do we want our kids to play sports?
We think it’s meaningful to start with the end in mind. Sports are a great way to teach lessons that children can carry for a lifetime – teamwork, sportsmanship, discipline, work ethic, leadership and the list goes on. It’s important to remember these things when we talk about practice and games and most of all remember these things when we’re cheering from the sideline.
This is really simple but so important. We want to highlight something our child did well and avoid being a coach on the drive home. Research shows that kids least favorite part of playing sports is the ride home. Resist the urge to “help” correct their athletic shortcomings.
My child’s worth does not come from their athletic ability.
Kids develop at different stages and ages, but ultimately a child’s ability to catch and throw a ball does not determine their worth. If my child is not a great athlete but likes to play sports, GREAT! Sports are supposed to be fun!
Referees are human.
My husband always says that referees get it the worst from parents. There are good refs and bad refs, but I have never seen an official change a call because parents were screaming from a sideline. Remember my kids are watching too, model good behavior!
Winning and success are not the same things.
Do not get caught up in winning and losing. (Is my kid the only one “keeping score” even though there is no scoreboard?) The fact that a child was on an undefeated 6th grade basketball team is a great sports experience, but likely won’t make a lasting impact on their future
Hold each other accountable.
My husband and I are our own team. It is important to be on the same page and continue to remind each other of our goals for our children. It is easy to get caught up in the moment. Take a breath and talk it through with your spouse once calm.
This should go without saying, but sometimes we can use a gentle reminder.