By: Dr. Mark Rerick, CMAA - Univ. of North Dakota
Within education-based athletics, we spend large amounts of time critiquing and complaining about the role of parents in our programs. To combat the recent trend of overactive sports parenting, we often share philosophies or principles with the parents in an attempt to get them to see the issue from our side of the table.
Rather than continuing to bombard them with philosophy and explanations, here is a list of 10 how to’s to simplify directions for parents:
#1. Before the season begins, ask your child why they are participating in this sport. Do not lead him/her into an answer; simply ask then listen. Make sure your goals for them match their own goals.
#2. Don't attend practice. Let your son or daughter learn without feeling like they need to perform for you.
#3. Follow your district's communication guidelines in order to allow your children to advocate for themselves. This especially applies to shy or introverted kids who find it difficult to speak to leaders. Youth sports are a great venue to learn this skill.
#4. Prior to every game, say only these three things to your athlete: (1) Play hard; (2) Have fun; (3) I love you.
#5. Every game consists of people performing one of four roles: athlete, coach, official, or fan. Your role is as a fan.
#6. At least once per game - but preferably more - applaud the effort or play of an athlete on the other team. Imagine how your child would feel if he or she made a great play and was applauded by the opposing crowd. Further, you'll find yourself at ease by reinforcing your role at the game as someone watching kids play a game.
#7. Under no circumstances should you mimic the words or actions of the athletes during a game. You're an adult; let the kids act like kids.
#8. You only need to say one thing to officials. If you believe they have been working hard, say "I appreciate your effort and dedication for our youth sports program." If you don't think they worked very hard throughout the game, just say "Thank you for using your time to work with our team today."
#9. After every game, say only these two things to your kid: (1) I enjoyed watching you today; (2) I love you. Let your son or daughter decide if they want to talk about anything else from the game.
#10. After every single time you have a conversation with a coach – no matter what the topic of conversation was - make sure you thank the coach for his or her time. Thank the coach for spending afternoons and evenings with your child instead of his or her own family. Thank the coach for voluntarily adding stress to their own life for the benefit of teaching your child. Thank the coach for the influence he/she has on your child. Whether or not you believe the coach is doing the job the way you think it should be done, they are still spending time coaching your child.
That's it - 10 easy guidelines for parents to follow to give the experience back to the athletes. With this list, the athletes will appreciate parental presence at games, the coaches will appreciate parental roles within the program, and parents will find themselves enjoying the process of being a youth sports parent.