My 10 DOs and DO NOTs of Sports Parenting
Anyone who knows me understands I have a great passion for basketball and sports. Looking at the photos below you might think I am already envisioning my daughter’s WNBA career.
I do have a passion for the game and for what sports can do for a person, so it is only natural for me to want to share that passion with all my children. However, I am more passionate and focused on being a great parent than the athletic success of my child.
“I often say that the most competitive sport in America is parenting—sitting in the stands competing with each other for a better seat in the bleachers of life based on one’s child’s performance. These parents have forgotten the pure, unadulterated pleasure of their own play as children—if they ever felt it!” Joe Ehrmann from InSideOut Coaching
If you coach any sports at any level you can see examples of parents ruining the experience.
If you spend time reading and studying the research you know the facts, most parents are not preparing their kids for the real world.
If you just turn on Sportscenter you will see stories of parents going crazy on the sidelines or using their child’s fame for their own selfish desires.
I do not want to be the parent that tries to control the experience of my child.
Sports were great for me in many ways. I love everything they have done for me and understand the positive and negative influence they can have in a young person’s life. I will encourage my child to play a variety of sports. If they share my passion… GREAT! But I understand I cannot and should not control their sporting experience.
I do not want to be the parent that lives vicariously through my child.
I miss playing basketball and wish I could go back to do it all over again! However, my child’s life is not a second chance to live out unfulfilled dreams or relive my glory days.
My 10 DOs and DON’Ts
- I will not call my child’s coach to discuss playing time, strategy, development, or other teammates. My job is to parent and the coach’s job is to coach.
Instead when my child is frustrated I will encourage them to focus on what they can do to improve their circumstances and learn from the experience.
- I will not often praise them for wins, points, goals, awards, trophies, etc… Constant praise of such things has been proven to foster a fixed mindset.
Instead I will praise them for their effort, attitude and sportsmanship. Praise of these traits fosters a growth mindset and directs their focus to the process of reaching their full potential.
- I will not talk poorly of the coach or other players to my child and other parents. People are doing the best they can with what they know.
Instead I will encourage my child to be a supportive teammate and someone who is fun to coach.
- I will not pay for a personal trainer for my child, until they have shown they are willing to put the work in themselves.
Instead I will encourage them to ask their coach or look online for drills and then go put the work in if they want to get better.
- I will not encourage my child to specialize in a sport or play travel ball. It has been proven to lead to burnout, more injuries and doesn’t develop the whole person.
Instead I will encourage my child to play multiple sports and participate in extracurricular actives, such as drama, art, and music. It is healthy intellectually, physically and emotionally, while developing creativity. Playing a wide variety of sports does not make you well rounded!
- I will not coach or referee from the sideline. It is distracting, disrespectful to the coach, and sets a poor example of sportsmanship.
Instead, I will cheer on my child’s team regardless of the circumstances (winning or losing, playing or sitting the bench).
- I will not coach in the car ride home. It is not my job and it will not be helpful.
Instead I will ask my child four questions: 1) Did you have fun? 2) Did you work hard? 3) Did you have a good attitude? 4) Did you appreciate the opportunity?
- I will not contact the coach about the schedule, spend my time fundraising, or do other player responsibiliities. Doing so makes my child’s responsibilities my responsibilities and robs them of the learning experience.
Instead, I will make my child responsible for their team commitments. If they fail to be responsible within their means then they will suffer the consequences (miss practice, cut from the team, sit a game).
- I will not let sports take over our home and family life. Family dinners, vacations, and time together must be a priority.
Instead, we will work to maintain a healthy balance in our commitments and I will expect my teenager to carry a summer job to contribute to the family. Sports are great and can be applied to life, but they aren’t real life. A miserable hot sweaty minimum wage job is a great teacher!
- I will not foster a sense of entitlement within my child to play sports.
Instead I will expect my child to complete their schoolwork and do their chores around the house if they expect to go to practice or a game. Chores are great for kids and it is why my mother had 7 children. 😃
The sports parent I want to be
Will following through on all these things be hard? Yes.
But what is harder: Parenting a child when they are 14 years old OR parenting a child when they are 28 years old?
Good parenting does not remove hurtful experiences from kids’ lives, but helps them navigate these experiences.
My job as a parent will be to help GUIDE them through their experience.
The parent I will strive to be is the sports parent that ensures his children never forget that their value comes from who they are as a person, not what they do on a field or court.