As parents, you probably get a lot of feedback from your child after practices and games. How hot it was, how hard the drills were, how he doesn’t understand the new offense yet, or how she doesn’t like her coach.
I’ve had 21 years worth of youth sports commentary and I know that complaining and venting, as well as, “Hey Mom and Dad, guess what I did in practice today?” are to be expected from kids in sports.
But mixed in with the frustrations, complaints, and pronouncements, I’m listening for the really important stuff. These are the things I really want to hear my kids say as they play sports:
1. “I am having fun!”
I don’t care how old your child is–8 or 18–if he or she does not enjoy playing, even through the hard work, then it may be time to ask the question, “Would you rather find another activity?”
I remember the first time I heard my son say this. He was playing middle school basketball as point guard, and during our post-game assessment, he said,
“My job is to make my teammates look good, not to make myself look good.”
Ironically, in the process, he made himself look pretty awesome on that court! He knew that putting Team first not only benefitted his teammates, it set him up as a smart player and a leader.
3. “I won’t give up.”
Frustrations and challenges are part of the game in youth sports, but giving up doesn’t have to be. Nothing made me prouder than seeing the tenacity in my kids’ faces when they were beat down and got up to keep fighting.
Your child may not like or respect the coach, but his or her job is to listen anyway. “Seek to understand”, we always told our kids. Listen, follow the game plan, and do your best to understand what he expects of you.
When your child works his butt off and then sees results, it is a feeling like no other. For him, and for Mom and Dad.
Often, the parents are the ones to blame when it comes to demonizing the opponent. The kids just want to play and enjoy the competition, but parents let it become personal.
I loved watching my kids show respect and even friendship to their opponents before, during and after games. They understood the true spirit of youth sports better than many parents do
If your child cannot look you in the eye and say that, perhaps it’s time to move on. He should not be playing to make you happy or to keep up with her peers. She should play for one reason only: because she loves the game.
My kids are 22, 25, and 28, and although they may not say those exact words, I hear it when they reminisce about their playing days or as they take on new challenges in crossfit or coaching. They are glad they played because of the value that youth sports added to their lives, making them forge through challenges and teaching them the importance of hard work, pushing them to be leaders, and giving them a lifelong love for staying active and fit.
Parents, what are your kids saying as they play sports?
Janis Meredith, coach’s wife for 28 years and sports mom for 21, has been spreading the message of positive sports parenting for four years through her blog, podcast, and videos. She recently launched an at-home video course to help sports parents keep the sports dream alive for their kids, instead of pushing them away from competition.
Learn more about the course, Parenting Your Child Through a Positive Youth Sports Experience