Supporting your child's sporting passion can be a delicate balance between engaging too much and not at all. There are a few key ways you can demonstrate support for their athletic endeavors without being too hot or cold.
When your kid comes home from school and announces that they want to join a sports team, you support them. Studies have shown that sports are incredibly beneficial for kids and teens. Not only are young athletes more likely to be physically healthy, but they tend to develop skills like communication, teamwork, leadership, and time management, which are widely applicable in school, work, and life.
Yet, even when a child shows interest in a sport, parents often aren’t properly supportive. On the one hand, if you don’t engage at all with your child’s new hobby, they aren’t likely to maintain their initial passion and they might quit the sport in a matter of months. On the other hand, if you are overzealous, you might push them to the point of burnout, again inspiring them to give up the sport for a lower-pressure hobby.
So what is the right way to support kids in athletics?
Learn what you can about the sport
It’s not uncommon for kids who participate in sports to have parents who are already engaged in athletics in some way, shape, or form. If you are already a tried-and-true fan of your child’s chosen athletic pursuit—if you played when you were young or if you follow the sport at the professional level—you might not need to invest much time in this supportive step. However, if your child chooses a more obscure sport that you aren’t familiar with, you should start by learning as much as you can about it. Knowing the rules of the sport, a basic history of the sport, and a few requirements for training and playing will help you become closer with your child as they navigate their new passion. You might launch into research about the sport on your own or with your child so that you can build a foundation in the sport together.
Understand what drives your child
A child’s motivations for playing a sport will determine how they engage with the activity in the short and long term. For instance, if your kid joined the softball team because all of her friends were playing softball—and not because she was interested in the sport of desired athletic activity—then she might not feel much compulsion to excel in the pursuit. In this situation, pushing your child to train harder won’t be beneficial; it could even cause a rift in your relationship. However, if your child joined the softball team because she idolizes softball players or loves team-based competition, she might appreciate your encouragement to practice hitting balls or catching flies. Throughout your child’s sports experience, you should communicate with them about why your kid wants to play the sport, what they enjoy about the sport and more, so you have a better understanding of how to show support.
Be a role model for your child
Your little one learns almost everything about the world by watching you—they walked because you walked; they talked because you talked. As they begin playing sports, they will again emulate your behavior, which could be good or bad, depending on what kind of sport you are. Whenever you watch or participate in sports, you should strive to be a good sport. Never cheat, stay positive, don’t trash-talk, respect officials, hydrate and eat well, win and lose gracefully. If you do slip up and exhibit poor sportsmanship, you should talk to your child about how you behaved improperly and perhaps apologize to anyone affected by your behavior. Then, your child will act like this while they play, and they will be more likely to have fun with the sport.
Don’t be your child’s coach
Even if you have plenty of experience with the sport—even if you feel that you could help your child improve their technique or push them to greatness—you shouldn’t assume the role of your child’s coach. There are so many reasons to allow someone else to fill the coaching position. Still, the main one is the extra stress that a coach-player relationship can place on an already delicate parent-child relationship. In fact, you should avoid any coaching behavior, like modifying technique or scheduling training, which can also strain your relationship or even undermine their coach’s authority. The last thing you want to do is storm onto the tennis court to lecture your child about their backswing; you can leave that to coaches at the best tennis camps for juniors. Instead, you should show your love and support from the stands.
Show unwavering love for your child
Finally, it shouldn’t matter whether your child is a prodigy in their sport, whether their team makes the championships, whether they have an important position or whether they ever score a single point. You should love and support your child no matter how they perform—and you should love your child even if they decide to quit. Sports can be beneficial to physical, mental, and social development, but even more important to a child is a loving relationship with a parent. As you navigate the realm of athletics together, you should never allow your passion for sports to obscure your love for your child.