Setting a positive example for your kids while you sit in the stands cheering is a good way to ensure they will participate in sports for a long time.
Here are some tips for acting responsibly as the proud parent of a football player or a cheerleader. Media attention, dreams of fame and fortune, and a win at all cost mentality have raised the stakes so that in America, youth sports is not just a game anymore, and it can get way out ot control.
Getting so caught up in the action that you overreact to every play or call, harms and embarrasses children. It focuses attention away from them and negates all the good things we hope kids learn from playing – teamwork, effort, problem solving and of course, how to have fun.
Put sports into perspective.
You don’t often see emotional behavior at the school play, but when your child sees you irate over a football game, the message is that sports are the end all and be all in life. Don’t emphasize the end product – a win, trophy or championship – over the process of playing and having fun. When there’s no place for second place, you get parents and kids who are not satisfied with having a good time.
It’s okay to cheer loudly when your son gains a first down, but when he gets stopped behind the line of scrimmage, don’t forget to yell, “Good effort, way to hang onto the ball!” Cheering for all the players reinforces the lessons of teamwork and promotes camaraderie among both players and parents.
Can the pre-game and post-game lectures.
Don’t offer a steady stream of advice, criticism and pep talks. The last think a kid wants to hear on the way home, or at the dinner table, is what he could have done better during the game. If you also coach our child’s team, relinquish our coach title off the field and relish just being a parent.
Let the coaches coach; You parent.
Don’t shout instructions or point out mistakes from the sidelines. Your child already has his assignment from the coach and is concentrating executing what he’s learned in practice. Unauthorized coaching distracts your child and undermines the coach. But a cheery “Let’s Go Mustangs!” or “C’mon D” before each play is just fine.
Respect those in charge.
Publicly disagreeing with an official or coach teaches kids that it’s okay to challenge an adult’s authority. Officials make bad calls from time to time, they’re only human, but right or wrong, kids and parents must yield to them. Let your child hear you say, “I don’t think you were out of bounds either, but that’s not the way the referee saw it, and he was a bit closer than I was.” Don’t criticize coaches in front of your child. You don’t have to agree with everything the coach does, but your child must learn to respect him. If you truly have a grievance, speak to the coach privately. Don’t confront him in the heat of the moment or immediately after a game.
Limit SOS calls.
Is your child sitting on the bench a lot? Does he dream of playing a different position? Part of our responsibility as parents is to teach our children how to solve problems on their own. If parents always come to the rescue, what does that teach him? Encourage your child to speak to his coach on his own, but tell him how. Don’t complain. Instead, he can ask the coach if he might get more playing time at a different position or what can he do to improve. If your child really has been wronged, speak with the coach but don’t get confrontational. Ask, “What can we tell our son? He’s very enthusiastic about football.”
Stop the trash talking.
Putting down the opponent or flinging accusations of cheating gives kids mixed messages about sportsmanship. We make our kids shake hands after each game and insist sports are for fun, but seeing and hearing you act otherwise confuses them and undermines your credibility.
Let your child see you enjoying the game, rather than sitting wiith a tense scowl on your face and veins popping from your neck. Have a hot dog and a soda, and enjoy your role as a proud parent, no matter what occurs on the field.