Sports parenting can be an exciting, albeit exhausting life experience. Watching your kids grow and develop through sport participation can be one of the most fun and rewarding things a kid can do in life, but great sport experiences rely heavily on successful sport parenting. This week I ask what kind of sports parent are you? The following questions are common questions and topics of discussion at my office - check out how you stack up.
1. Do you ask your child a lot of questions about sport participation and choices, or do you generally make these decisions alone and without your child's input?
Some parents regularly talk to their kids about the types of sports (and frequency) they want in their life, while others tend to make these decisions with little, if any, discussion with their kids. Generally speaking the better way to go is to talk openly with your kids about sports, and listen closely to their responses. It's also a good idea to watch for things like body language and whether the child really feels a certain way, or is instead simply answering you in the way the child thinks you want.
2. Do you offer positive reinforcement only for accomplishments, or do you reward effort, too?
While rewarding accomplishments is important, if you're only acknowledging when your child succeeds you may be overlooking many additional growth opportunities. Specifically, in order for kids to improve their success on the field it's important to "shape," or reward and reinforce efforts that get close to the end goal (even if the end goal isn't met). By encouraging kids this way, the chances for future success increase dramatically, and your child will probably have a lot more fun competing as well.
3. Do you actively support your child in sports, or do you allow your child to have his or her own experience?
In order to get the most from the youth sport experience it's important for parents to be active with their guidance and support. Do you watch practices, attend games, help fund-raising efforts, and chaperone kids on out-of-town trips with the team? Remember, sports should not be used as a babysitter for your child, but instead an opportunity for families to be together, strengthen relations, and gain life skills from playing on a team and competing against others.
4. Do you guide your child with a healthy balance with sports, or risk burnout by going "full throttle?"
Sports burnout has become a very big issue in youth sports, and the likelihood for your child experiencing sports burnout is in proportion to how long and intensely he or she plays sport. For example, kids who specialize in one sport and play it year-round generally run a greater risk for burnout compared to kids who change sports throughout the year and take time off between seasons. It is for these reasons that parents are encouraged to take a proactive approach and guide their kids through important sport decisions rather them leaving kids to their own making these decisions.
5. Do you teach resiliency through sports, or simply call "politics?"
Sure, not every decision the coach makes is fair, but it's much better to teach your child about how to handle problems and develop resiliency rather than immediately calling out "politics!" Helping kids understand that life isn't always fair is an important lesson, and teaching them how to use adversity to use future self-improvement goals is a better way to go compared to always thinking people are out to get them.
Dr. Chris Stankovich is the founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems, an athletic counseling and human performance enhancement center. Sports parents, please check out The Parents Video Playbook and sports counseling services at drstankovich.com