Have you ever been or experienced that parent at your son or daughter’s basketball game asking the referee if they need new glasses? Or in the middle of the game, calling your child’s name so you can personally coach them from the sidelines? I’m sure all of you can relate to those examples above and maybe sometimes you were that parent!
I could say that throughout my athletic career, my parents definitely had their moments (even a couple ejections from the crowd, but we won’t talk about those ones); however, my parents were always my number one fans. As a young athlete, looking out into the crowd, I was always so happy to see them there cheering me on. Although there were those long ride homes critiquing and/or praising my performance for that game, I would still say that without my parents, my sporting career would not have been as rewarding.
Today, many children are enrolled in sports before they are able to read and write. With that said, parents are involved in the sporting lives of their children from the very beginning of their careers. The involvement of parents in the athletic career of their child is inevitable and all parents should have the opportunity to be a part of this potential growth opportunity. However, the way parents choose to be involved can either create positive memories that will last a lifetime, or significantly deter that child away from sports.
Parents experience a wide range of emotions while watching their child play sports; that rush of happiness when your child makes the game-winning shot and a feeling of sadness or emptiness when they lose by one point and everything in between. These emotions become an issue when you, as the parent, are looking for ways to increase the positive emotions, through over-involvement in sport, pushing the young athlete to perform in a certain way and not thinking about the consequences this may have on the athlete.
With that said, participating in sports from a very young age enables children to develop the idea of competition, motivation, hard-work, achieving their goals and teamwork, which are all skills that will be used later in life. Using sports as the vehicle to learn these skills is a great way to develop the young athlete physically, emotionally, and mentally for other areas in life, such as education. There are many ways parents are able to promote a positive sporting experience for their young athlete and help them receive the most out of the chosen sport(s).
Some tips may include:
Be willing to let your child make and learn from their own mistakes
- Ask what could be done differently next time, work with them to solve the problem, and ask what they have learned from this experience
- Don’t be afraid of failure – allow your child to fail and make mistakes
- That is the only way we learn
Allow your child to choose the sports and/or activities that THEY want to participate in
- Support the choice, even if it is not your personal opinion – let them try it out!
- Don’t live out your dreams through your child’s experience in sports
Find a competent and fun coach and ALLOW them to teach your child
- Important that the child respects their coach and trusts the advice/instruction they are providing them
- Don’t want the child to get confused with the coach saying one thing and you saying another – contradicting and confusing for that young athlete
Although easier said than done, try staying calm, cool and collected when watching your son and/or daughter play
- Don’t want to be “that parent” always critiquing the coach or the referee – allow them to play and enjoy themselves
- Eliminates embarrassment for you and your young athlete
Don’t compare your child to the next young athlete – whether good or bad
- Creates resentment and escalates competition between players – no one needs more of that – especially at this young age
Always reassure that you enjoyed watching your child play and ensure are having FUN
- Praise qualities like effort, hard work, attempting new skills and other similar values, rather than just winning
- Allow them to “just be a kid” and have a good time playing the sport they love
- After the game and on off-days, try not to talk only about sports or how they played during a specific game – may start to bore the child
For me today, although I do not have any children at the moment, I am a basketball coach with an under 11 boys team. I think I am still able to relate to these ways to promote a positive experience in the young athlete’s life because I have a role in setting these children on the right path in their athletic careers. The first time I started coaching, I realized that you get more of a rush watching the athletes play the game (no matter the age group), compared to when I was playing the sport myself. For that first time in my life, I realized what it must have been like for parents watching their own child.
In my opinion, parents play a massive role in their child’s athletic careers not only for support and encouragement, but also to teach them values and life lessons. Youth sports are supposed to be as exciting and fun for young athletes as well as the parents. Of course you want your child to succeed and do well, but while on that “emotional roller-coaster” as a parent, ensure that your child is having fun and enjoying the sport that they love to play!
So sit back, relax and enjoy the game.
If you have any funny stories being a parent of a young athlete or comments, please feel free to share below!
Chery Bennett is the Domestic Development Intern at Canada Basketball. She is currently pursuing her Graduate Certificate in Sport Business Management at Humber College, and has a passion for basketball and a former athlete within the sport.