So, your little one wants to start playing a sport. No matter what sport it is, there are many important tidbits for parents to remember. Tidbits that will take them far, while creating a stronger relationship with their child.
My children started playing sports at a young age. For my daughter, it started as a toddler with dance, which continued for 10 years. This morphed into hockey through high school, along with field hockey and lacrosse, which continued through college. My son followed a similar path, only with one year of dance and no field hockey. He, too, went on to play college lacrosse. There is so much to learn as a parent about being a spectator, how to react to your child after a disappointing loss, and having realistic expectations from the very beginning.
Some parents live vicariously through their children and are hoping their children will achieve the dream that they never fulfilled. It is important to note that according to National College Athletic Association, less than two percent of athletes will go on to play a professional sport. Many children can go on to play a sport in college at various levels including a club level, but it is difficult. I have observed many parents who really thought their youth peewee “A” player was going to the National Hockey League. Be realistic and let your child decide if they want to play a sport competitively.
At a young age, when a child starts a sport or activity, it is important to have them follow through on what they began. If they don’t like it, that’s O.K. However, they are a puzzle piece on a team and are needed, thus must follow through with their commitment. If they don’t want to do it next time, let it be O.K. Perhaps it is time to try something new.
Spectating as a parent can be difficult. My daughter was a lacrosse goalkeeper; my son did face-offs in lacrosse. Everyone has an opinion, and some are not afraid to yell it out to the coaches from the stands, especially when the team is doing poorly. Yelling to referees when you don’t agree with a call or even coaching a child from the bench is frowned upon. Don’t be that person. Remember that every person on the field or on the ice is someone’s child. Even Tom Brady and Gronk have bad games sometimes.
Leave the coaching and critiquing to the coaches. When a game or a practice is over, use this time to ask your child how they are feeling, of if they need a snack or a drink. Don’t use this time to tell them they did not run hard enough, skate hard enough, or were lazy. This type of criticism breaks down a child’s confidence and makes them self-conscious when they are out on the ice or field.
Last but not least, do not under any circumstances try to coach your child from the stands or sidelines. I was witness to one child throughout youth and high school sports who would always be looking into the stands at his father, who was giving him hand signals that were contrary to that of the direction the coach was giving. This child would often ride home with us to avoid the wrath of his father telling him what he did wrong. His father never played the sport and was not a coach. This child had amazing potential far beyond what he was performing. He did not want to disappoint his father or his coach.
Follow your child’s lead. Sports can be a great outlet for children and a great way to learn about teamwork and friendship.
Ellen Drolette, owner of Sunshine Daydream Child Care, has been an early educator for 24 years. Named one of 50 master leaders in the world by Exchange magazine in 2015 and a global leader in early care and education for the World Forum Foundation. She is co-owner of Positive Spin, LLC, offering professional development and empowerment workshops. Reach Ellen at firstname.lastname@example.org.