There is often a fine line for parents between encouraging and supporting their children in sports and having extreme, sometimes unrealistic, expectations. Here are five tips from K.C. Wilder, Ph.D., - a former college cycling All-American, two-time national masters short track cycling champion, and professional cyclist, certified sports trainer and sports psychologist - for parents, who want to support their kids in sports in most positive and constructive ways:
1. Define core sport values
Maintaining core values while playing sports is essential. Your top family values for sports may include integrity, resilience, teamwork, kindness and commitment are some core values that may already be reinforced in your family culture. The best message your young athlete can get from you is that he needs to find something about which he is passionate, and then develop his own magic, through self-determination, dedication, and desire.
2. Facilitate happiness
Helping your child find happiness sport is about emphasizing that success is their performance, not the outcome of the game. Concentrate on the process to avoid putting extra pressure on or setting high expectations for your child. By letting go of the fear of failure, will be better able to actualize their full potential as athletes.
3. Instill confidence
Youth athletes are constantly being challenged and learning new skills, so being confident may not be as easy as it sounds. As your child matures, they will learn to develop confidence on their own, but before they internalize a sense of confidence, you can help instill confidence by offering them consistent, positive reinforcement. How? It may be as simple as letting them know that you believe in them, admire their achievements, are proud of their perseverance and so on.
4. Encourage passion and reasonable goal-setting
Let your child experience his or her own competitiveness - the desire to win. Help your child and set both short-term and long-term goals. A goal and a plan have to be coupled with passion. You can help them become confident by guiding them in the process of discovering what they want. When your child finds their desire and their passion, he will be able to achieve the goals he needs to succeed in sports.
5. Cultivate a healthy, competitive mindset
Competitiveness is the fire inside of your child, the spark that fosters creativity, artistry, persistence and the desire to improve. Let your child know that it is okay to be competitive and passionate about a game or activity that they love. Provide positive reinforcement by recalling for your child a good strategic move they made in a game or how they have improved a particular skill. Remind them that competitiveness is not just about winning; it's about self-improvement and confidence.
As parents, we want your children to be happy and to bring out their very best. By maintaining core values, facilitating happiness and instilling confidence you will be raising them to be successful and happy individuals who will exercise freedom and understand responsibility and expectations, not only in sports but in life.