When we watch our child making first achievements in sports (like successively winning a certain number of competitions), or hear from the coach about how talented and promising is your athlete, it’s easy for every parent to get sucked into the so-called “parent trap” of emphasizing results or pushing skills development over all other aspects of a child’s life.
We all know about “that” sports parents, and we all hope we aren’t and will never turn into one. Below you’ll find 6 common mistakes that parents of young athletes tend to make and useful tips that can help enhance your child’s sport experience.
1. Comparing your child's results with that of other athletes.
This is the most common mistake and 90% of parents can’t avoid making it.
Effects of Mistake – When you compare your child with others, no matter whether it is sports results or academic achievements, it lowers your child’s self-esteem and self-confidence and makes him doubt in your love.
How to Avoid – The best way to avoid comparing your athlete's achievements with others is to concentrate on your child's individual progress, marking his personal achievements every time.
- Don’t set goals for your athlete
- Don’t pressure your athlete regarding skills or results
- Don’t use sarcasm, threaten or promises to motivate your athlete
- Do mark every new achievement or skill
- Do give positive feedback to your athlete and provide moral support
- Do emphasize effort rather than results
- Do assist your child in setting realistic goals
2. Associating yourself with your athlete's success or lack of it
This mistake is not so common, but much more dangerous.
Effect of Mistake – If you base your own own ego or self-esteem on the success of your athlete, your unhappiness with the results makes your child feel guilty for not coming up to your expectations. This negative feeling affects your child’s both mental and physical health, causing neurological conditions, low immunity, psychogenic headache, stomach or back pain.
How to Avoid – Allow yourself to get pleasure from your child’s sports experience, but do not get overly emotionally involved. Stay calm, keeping in mind that your positive attitude is the best way to improve how well your child performs and feels about sports.
- Don’t care too deeply about your athlete's results
- Don’t try to recreate yourself through your athlete
- Don’t get overly emotionally involved with your athlete's success
- Do have a life of your own without youth sports but with other things that please you
- Do allow yourself to be proud of your athlete's achievements
- Do constantly improve your own skills and achievements
3. Basing your love and positive attitude on your athlete's success.
When it comes to youth sports, conditional approval is chosen by many parents as a way to improve a child’s results.
Effect of Mistake – Conditional love and approval harm your child more than you can imagine. Being constantly approved or disapproved for gymnastics achievements, children get used to the idea that continued love and good attitude from parents depends on results in the gym – a thing they even are not able to fully control.
How to Avoid – Just keep in mind that your child's success should depend on your attitude and not vice versa. You both will enjoy it more that way.
- Don’t take judge’s scores too seriously
- Don’t forget the need for fun in sports
- Don’t let yourself become obsessed with competition results
- Do understand the inherent difficulty in winning at competitions
- Do show your athlete unconditional love whether they win or lose
- Do keep a sense of humor about your athlete's participation in the sport
- Do emphasize to your child that sport is fun
4. Interfering with coaches and their coaching duties
When you become an experienced sports parent, you can come to a point, when you feel that you know better how to coach your athlete.
Effect of Mistake – When you interfere with coaching duties you undercut your athlete's confidence in their coaches and in this way make coaching your athlete more difficult for them.
How to Avoid – Leave the coaching to the professionals.
- Don’t discuss with your athlete's coaching methods
- Don’t badmouth your athlete's coaches in front of your child or other people
- Don’t try to coach your athlete yourself
- Do make your child feel that the coach is the master in sports issues
- Do support the gym and coaches in any way you can
- Do communicate with your child's coaches about his achievements and success
- Do show an active interest in the sport your child is participating in.
5. Expecting a monetary return for the time and money you are spending.
When it comes to youth sports, parents tend to predicate their support for their athlete's participation in the sport on any expectation of a monetary return like receiving a college scholarship.
Effect of Mistake – Thinking of time and money you spend on your child participation in sports as an investment or a sacrifice in most of the times leads to you to frustration and can also make your child feeling guilty if failed to meet your expectations.
How to Avoid – Don’t expect anything more from your gymnast except the best effort.
- Don’t do or say anything to make your child feel guilty for the time and money you are spending on their sports classes
- Don’t feel like you make any sacrifices for them to participate in the sport
- Don’t expect that time and money you spend will bring great benefits
- Do emphasize positive moments of sport as fun, skill development, cooperation, making new friends and etc.
- Do understand that your child may need a break from sports occasionally or can decide to leave the sport at any time.
- Do show interest in your child's sport - help your child get to practice, attend competitions, ask questions
6. Competing with other parents
For many parents it’s easy to get caught up in competing with other parents, comparing their child to other athletes at the gym.
Effect of Mistake – Competing with other parents you help create an unhealthy atmosphere in the gym and deprive yourself of communicating with people, who will understand what you and your gymnast go through.
How to Avoid – Use all opportunities to make new friends among gym parents, and you’ll get additional benefits as, for example, shared pick-up responsibilities, while your child will easily make new friends in a safe environment.
- Don’t participate in gossip about anyone in the gym community
- Don’t make enemies of other parents
- Don’t think of other athletes in the gym as your child’s competitors or an obstacle to your athlete to shine
- Do make friends with other parents at the gym and events
- Do give your time and energy to the sports your child is involved in
- Do truly support every athlete from your gym at the meets
Most of sports parents want the very best for their child including the opportunity to be safe and learn new skills. It’s critically important for parents of young athletes to remember that their job is support our children and give them our unconditional love. To achieve this goal, concentrate on helping your child set realistic goals, respect coaches, make friends with other athletes and have fun when participating in sports.