Parenting an Athletic Child
The importance positive parent involvement with your child’s sports endeavors
Despite the best of intentions, many parents of younger athletes fail to recognize the detrimental effects they have on their children when it comes to handling participation in sports. Some parents are so under-involved that what they tell their children to do lacks legitimacy and importance. Others become so engrossed in the child’s athletic life that they take over and morph into people who unfortunately shed their parental skin and become something obsessive and scary. Either way, and many places in between, many parents do not stop to consider how their behaviors, both explicit and implicit, influence the experiences their children have.
Today’s sports world seems dominated by not the young athletes, but rather the aggressive parents who seemingly expect perfection. While some excellent parents exist, those who allow the coach to coach and the athlete to play, and, when the game or practice is all over, go back to being mom or dad. Others are motivated by living vicariously through their children, hoping that their child will attain a college scholarship, obsessed with absolute achievement, or hell-bent on winning, these parents unknowingly hurt their children in countless ways. These injuries, while not physical, not only lessen the athletic experience for the child, but also they seriously hinder the parent-child relationship, which may very well be the most devastating fact of all.
Jim Thompson, Liberty Mutual Responsible Sports spokesman, and founder and executive director of Positive Coaching Alliance, encourages parents to look at the entire range of positive benefits of sports for their child instead of just focusing on talent development.
According to ResponsibleSports.com, there are three elements for parents to become responsible and instill success: it’s not just tied to wins and losses but also to mastering physical and mental skills. Thompson explains, “By moving our children’s focus off the scoreboard results and on to their effort, our kids will be happier and more self-confident — and the wins will come.” Through effort we encourage our kids to always give 100%, through learning we see sports as a way to constantly learn and improve and lastly, through errors we teach them that mistakes are ok. “It’s how we respond to them that really matters,” he says.
So how can you set the example?
Be a good sport yourself! “To send your children messages about teamwork, cheer for their teammates by name. To teach sportsmanship, stretch outside the box and cheer great plays by the opponent.” When your kid makes an error, he advises parents to remind players to bounce back and focus on the next play such as motioning to them “no sweat” of wiping off your brow.
Honor the game by keeping your temper intact and leading by example, and above all, fill your athlete’s emotional tank by striking the right balance between specific truthful praise and specific constructive criticism.
“Educational research indicates a ‘Magic Ratio’ of 5:1, five praises to one criticism, which fosters the ideal learning environment. A full Emotional Tank leads to better performance and is more fun for the athlete as well.”
At CARA, this is also the philosophy we live by. In the following pages, we hope to provide you with some tools to help you navigate the waters of competitive gymnastics: some guidelines for our program, how you can best support your young athlete, and some things you can do to help your child gain the success and confidence sports can bring to their lives.