Being a Positive Sport Parent

by Justin Sayban

ASC Parents,

I wanted to share some great information with all of you... as parent and coach of three sons that have played since they could walk. I have done it the wrong way and the right way and trust me the right way is the way to go. So please read this as it’s the best way to work with your child during their youth years in sports.

It is important to be supportive and respectful, not only of your child, but also of the others on the team and of the coaches. As a parent, you have the power to help shape your youth athlete’s attitude about sports.

It’s natural to get excited when watching your child play but it is important to keep your emotions in check ongame day. Here are some tips to help you:

  1. Be supportive before the competition even starts. Tell your youth child you are proud of him/her, regardless of how well he/she plays.
  2. Remind them that it’s normal to be nervous and to have fun even when playing hard.
  3. Let the coaches coach; avoid instructing your child or other players from the sidelines.
  4. Cheer for good plays and great efforts by both teams.
  5. When the game ends, set a good example for your child by thanking the officials, coaches, teammates
  6. and opposing teams for their efforts.

After following these guidelines, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back! And know that your support role doesn't end there.

Consider these three tips when talking with your children after they compete:

  1. Talk only when your child is ready. If your youth athlete wants to talk about the game, he/she will bring it up, maybe even on the ride home. If it seems like he/she doesn't feel like talking, respect that. Pushing your child to discuss a game, play-by-play, especially if he/she did not perform well, may turn them off sports and decrease his/her desire to share his/her thoughts with you or ask your opinion.
  2. Ask open-ended questions. Once the conversation begins, keep it going by asking questions your child can't answer with a simple "yes" or "no." For example, ask, “What did you think was your team’s bestplay of the game?" “Other teams best play?”
  3. Listen carefully. If you're experienced in the sport your child plays, it might be tempting to jump in and share your own stories as they are telling theirs. Be patient; make a conscious effort to listen to what they have to say about their experience. Let your youth athlete take control of the conversation, help them process their thoughts and emotions, and then determine whether or not there's a life lesson you can impart.

Be positive. Remind your child that you are proud of them, especially when the outcome doesn't go their way.

When you support your child before and during a game, and communicate with them effectively after the game, they will not only have a strong mental attitude, but they will also be more coachable, optimistic, and better able to handle the inevitable losses that are part of the youth sports experience. This will enable them to succeed on an off the field.

George Archuleta
ASC Youth Sports Director