Drive through any community in the spring or fall and you are sure to see fields filled with young athletes playing their favorite sports. Most parents put their children in sports not because they expect them to become a professional athlete but because they understand the lessons that will be taught on the field. Athletes learn the value of showing up, working hard and working together. These are lessons they will take through their lives and apply for years to come.
Unfortunately, as parents we often lose the plot. We forget why we registered our child for sports and our competitive sides take over. We find ourselves on the sidelines screaming instructions, in the car dissecting the game, or calling a coach to complain about the job they are are doing.
If you find yourself doing these things, it may be a good time to revisit the sideline guidelines of being a responsible sports parents.
Trust the coach.
Very few youth coaches are paid. This means the majority of the coaches you will encounter volunteered for the position. First and foremost be grateful to them for taking on this responsibility. It’s not an easy job. Keep in mind that if your coach has continued to coach year after year, they care about their athletes. They are making decisions to help your child be a better athlete and the team progress in a positive way as well. Trust their decisions.
Pretend your child cannot hear you on the field.
While we don’t subscribe to the silence is golden rule on the sideline and we love to see parents cheering their children on, we do suggest you refrain from yelling instructions. You child most likely cannot hear you in the first place. But if they can, your instructions may be counter to what they are being taught or worse, your instructions may distract your player putting them at risk for injury. Let them play, cheer them on, and enjoy the game. Chances are they will do just fine on the field without the extra guidance.
Be the parent, not the coach.
What you say to your young athlete after the game may be as important as what you say during the game. Try to refrain from debriefing your child. If they want to talk about the game, listen to them. You may be surprised by the lessons they learned on the field, their thoughts on their teammates or the goals they have set for themselves. Make it clear that you are proud of their effort but try to understand they may need this time to decompress. They may want to talk about anything but the game.
Some days we feel as though these hours spent schlepping a child from field to field, will never end. Unfortunately, they do. Enjoy them while you have them and let your child do the same. You will never regret that decision.