Be a Winning Parent: 3 Tips for Parents of Young Athletes

Written By: Riedell | April 25, 2013

If you want your kids to come out of their youth sports experience a winner (feeling good about themselves and having a healthy attitude towards sports), then they need your help! You are an important part of the coach-athlete-parent team. If you play your position well, your child will learn the sport faster, perform better, have fun and have a greater self-esteem as a result.

Dr. Nicole LaVoi, from the University of Minnesota’s CEHD (College of Education and Human Development), studies sport psychology and focuses on the emotional experiences of parents with children in youth sports. She explains that youth sports should be a place where all kids can have the opportunity to have fun, learn skills, make friends and learn life lessons while striving to achieve. Adults play a huge role in this. As parents, we should all take stock in how to be more effective in creating a climate where all young athletes feel valued and have positive experiences.

So to help your young athlete do well AND enjoy themselves while playing sports, here are 3 ways to be a winning parent:

1. Be supportive, but don’t coach.
Think of your role on the parent-coach-athlete team as a support player. You are your child’s biggest and best fan, unconditionally! Provide encouragement, support and empathy but leave the coaching and instruction to the coach. Coaching interferes with your role as supporter and fan. The last thing your child wants to hear from you after a disappointing performance or loss is what they did technically or strategically wrong. Keep your role as a parent on the team separate from that as a coach.

2. Don’t define success and failure in terms of winning and losing.
One of the main purposes of the youth sports experience is skill acquisition and mastery. If a child plays her very best and loses—don’t become critical; show support. Similarly, when a child or team performs far below their potential but still wins, explain the difference. Help your child make this important distinction between success and failure and winning and losing.

3. Help make the sport fun for your child.
It’s been proven that the more fun an athlete is having, the more they will learn and the better they will perform. Fun must be present for peak performance to happen at every level of sports from youth to world class competitor! When a child stops having fun and begins to dread practice or competition, it’s time for you as a parent to become concerned. When the sport becomes too serious, athletes have a tendency to burn out, become susceptible to repetitive performance problems and even chronic injury. An easy rule of thumb: if your child is not enjoying what they are doing, investigate! What is going on that’s preventing them from having fun? Is it the coaching? The pressure? Is it you? Keep in mind that being in a highly competitive program does not mean that there is no room for fun.

What are some other ways that you encourage a healthy youth sports experience for your child? Share with us below!