1.Be a Parent not the Coach.

It is hard to let go. And it is even harder to see something that can be done better but not being able to do much about it. Competition is an opportunity to see where we stand, and improve for the coming time in a hope to achieve and conquer our goals.  

You may know your kid better than anyone, but what you also need to know is the very trick to avoid overstepping your bounds. Athletes already have a team of coaches; if an athlete partakes in club or travel teams, he has even more coaches. This illustrates that athletes do not need more coaches, yet all they need is a healthy and supportive system that ensures everyone around them to be helpful.

Tip - Empower your athlete by suggesting them to have a post game talk about the last game with the coaches at the next practice.  Coaches are more likely to be receptive to a suggestion that removes parents from the coaching process.

2.Never label players or teams by accomplishment.

Example: “This team was 3rd at nationals last year”…..Parents have been there and done that at least once for not just their own kid but also when talking to other kids. The last thing an athlete or a team wants to hear prior to a competition is how good the competition is. Parents may not mean to discourage an athlete, but in most cases that's the very purpose it serves: intimidating. It also shifts focus in a negative direction. 

3.Keep the Feedback Positive and Minimal.

Everyone wants to see their kids succeed and, in most cases, would do anything for them to win. Sometimes this compassion carries over to giving advice at the wrong time. So at the end of the game or tournament, we want to help them. We end up telling them what they could do better. However, athletes take it as criticism, not positive feedback. It’s also the last thing they want to hear 20 minutes after the game.

The perception that you didn’t do good enough or you only did good if you won or scored is dangerous. Everyone wants to win, but if you focus on just winning you fall into several traps. Athletes will start to put themselves over the team if they are only being judged if they led the team in goals or were the star of the show. 

Tip- Try not to talk about the game on the ride home or at the dinner table. The main reason is it becomes a habit, and the conversation every night for dinner and ride home from practice and games. Let the athlete bring it up, keep it brief but also positive. If your athlete starts to shut you out when you bring up sports, you need to scale back considerably.

4. Be aware of your behavior.

Youth athletes, preteen and teen athletes are impressionable. They are going to repeat the behavior they see. There may be times when you may not see eye to eye with the coach, but remember they have a job to do. Coaches have many different responsibilities and priorities. They coach several athletes, each with parents who seek playing time and opportunities for their athlete to be successful. 

Athletes need to learn about teamwork. It will help them at the next level and beyond sports. If athletes see their parents dismissing the teamwork concept and prioritize, they will follow suit. 

We understand that there may be justification for certain complaints, but most of the time they are the exceptions to the rule. 

You need to be careful about what you say in front of your athlete. They may repeat what you say to others on the team or even the coach. We are not perfect, but the last thing we want is a negative cancer on the team.

Seek to build a positive and supportive relationship with your athlete. As coaches at all levels talk, they will notice. A high school coach will talk to the middle school coach about an athlete and the behavior of their parents. Same goes for the college coaches who are looking for a team of leaders with no baggage. No one wants a problematic athlete or one with such a parent.

5. Identify your child as a person not an athlete.

For serious athletes who spend countless hours mastering their craft, sports can be consuming. One red flag we often see is when parents start to identify their children as an athlete, not as a young adult or student. 
A few examples come to mind:

We were aware of a situation where an athlete quit, and the parents’ response to the coach was “I lost him”.  Well, you can tell just right from that statement all the likely negative behavior and implications.

Another example is when parents chime in or judge their athlete from partaking in normal fun everyday activities or in the ones regarding food choices at a restaurant. When you do this, you are telling them that you see them as an athlete first and person second. Treat each kid the same, and treat them as kids.

The #1 reason kids quit playing sports is because they do not find it to be enjoyable anymore. They have their whole life to be treated as a business professional or, if lucky, a collegiate/professional athlete. There is one thing we all cannot get back, and that is time. Though unknowingly, seizing childhood memories, including fond memories of sports, can do damage beyond the short term and leaves a void for life.

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