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Although your young athlete may not express it—or may not even know how to express it—he or she needs you for more than the tangibles you provide. The tangibles are things like the money you fork out for camps and clinics and the hours you spend driving to and from practices, games and tournaments.
Parenting three athletes over 22 years has taught me that there are many intangible gifts we give to our kids that they probably don’t know how to ask for. Here are 15 ways you can show your athlete that you love and support him or her.
- Be a positive spectator. Don’t distract your young athlete from the sidelines or bleachers by shouting instructions.
- Support without coaching. Before, during and after games, your unconditional love and support is all your young athlete needs from you.
- Give your young athlete permission to have fun. In your rush to teach kids the value of hard work, don’t leave fun out of the equation. That’s what keeps them in the game.
- Give your young athlete permission to make mistakes. How else will they learn?
- Give your young athlete permission to have slumps. When mistakes turn into slumps, let your child work through it.
- Give your young athlete space. After practices and games or when frustrated, your child may just need time to breath and process. He or she will talk when ready.
- Bite your tongue. This will save you from many conflicts.
- Express your pride, win or lose. Your young athlete needs to know that you are proud of him or her no matter how he or she plays; You are proud of who he or she is, not just what he or she does.
- Let your young athlete choose. Which sport to play? To play or not to play? Offer options and leave the choice to them.
- Be an active listener. Pay attention when they talk. Use conversation as a way to understand and then respond, not just as a way to get your point across.
- Focus on the end game. Your young athlete definitely doesn’t know it’s needed, but if you have the big picture in mind, it will go a long ways to giving your child a positive youth sports experience.
- Stop interfering. Even though your young athlete rants and seems to be asking for your help, he or she really doesn’t want you to step in and interfere. They really do want to fight their own battles.
- Be there when you can. Your young athlete needs to understand that you cannot be at every game. They don’t need your 100 percent attendance, but they do need your 100 percent support. Be there as much as you possibly can, but don’t guilt yourself if you miss a game here or there.
- Show your pride. Wear that shirt with their name and number on it. Stand up and cheer when they make the shot. Let them know that you are their biggest fan. They may roll their eyes, but deep down they’ll be glad to know how proud they make you.
- Don’t let your young athlete’s sports define you as a parent. There’s more to life than your child’s sports. Be sure they understand that and knows that your self-esteem has nothing to do with how or what your child plays. That’s too much of a burden for a young athlete to carry.
Here’s why the intangible gifts you give your young athlete are so important: They speak to who they are deep in their soul. They shape character, giving him or her a strong foundation for being an adult. Don’t let them take a backseat to the money and time you pour into your child’s youth sports experience.