Parents are under a lot of pressure these days. You want what’s best for your kids, and you will jump through hoops to make sure they are happy and have a chance at success. Unfortunately, this may result in spending too much money on extracurricular activities and overbooking your kids’ schedules, which makes everyone stressed.
What if we told you that being a successful sports parent has nothing to do with buying the most expensive equipment, participating in the most camps and clinics, or bringing home the most trophies? Instead, being a successful sports parent is about staying within your budget, retaining enough family time, and making sure your kids are having fun. Here are 10 specific ways to be a successful sports parent that won’t cost you a penny more of your savings or a minute more of your time.
- Model behaviors you want your child to develop. It’s all too easy to badmouth the competition or loudly second-guess the referee, but these habits don’t exemplify good sportsmanship. Strive to set an example for your child and others by focusing on the positive. This essentially means cheering on your athlete but not booing the other team. Our parental pledge is an important part of the sports experience we provide for both parents and athletes.
- Look to the future, but live in the present. If you obsess over making it to the next level, you’re missing out on the most important game—the one being played right now! Enjoy your child during this stage of their development, and let the coach worry about what happens later.
- Encourage risk-taking. Competing is inherently risky because it either leads to a win or a defeat. Don’t downplay the challenge of this risk with vaguely encouraging statements like, “Maybe you’ll get it next time.” Instead, offer strong, specific words of encouragement like, “You didn’t win this time, but I’m so proud you didn’t give up!”
- Celebrate competition above winning. In every game, there’s a winner and a loser. But a competitor never loses—they get defeated. This defeat can motivate your athlete to work harder and smarter at improving their game. A true competitor always looks to play a level up, not necessarily in hopes of winning but to develop as an athlete. Celebrate their improvements, as defeat is never easy.
- Foster independence. Having expectations of your child can be a great tool when used properly. However, by taking a step back, you give your athlete room to take ownership of the sport for themselves. Fostering independence is a key ingredient for any successful sports parent.
- Make the coach your friend, not your foe. You and the coach want the same thing—for your athlete to succeed. You might see a different path to make that happen, and your child may struggle at times, but you should always strive to work with your child’s coach, not against them.
- Emphasize academics. A vast majority of young athletes must one day hang up their jerseys and find a new passion or career path. Only a handful of elite athletes play at the collegiate level, and even fewer go on to play professionally. With this in mind, don’t treat education as a backup plan. Instead, emphasize academics throughout your child’s sporting experience to create a solid foundation they can build a future on.
- Promote confidence in ways that best suit your child. Some kids thrive under pressure, but most don’t. Children who criticize themselves or freeze up during games get enough pressure from their teammates and coaches. Rather than adding to that pressure, build confidence in your athlete with practice, repetition, and leadership roles.
- Make sure your kid wants to play. Feel free to immerse your child in sports from a young age. Playing on a team keeps kids active, helps them make friends, and teaches life lessons that can be learned nowhere else. But if your child isn’t enjoying the experience, give them the freedom to try a new sport next season or even switch their focus to something else.
- Find the right youth sports program. To help you decide where to sign up your child for youth sports, consider the organization’s values. Choose a league that provides equal playing time, promotes healthy competition, and prioritizes athlete safety—not one that values winning at all costs.
We are so grateful for all of the wonderful parents that are part of our i9 Sports® family! If you are interested in getting your child involved in youth sports, check out what programs are available near you!