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As a sports parent, you have a choice in every situation. You can choose to yell at your young athlete, the coach or the official, or you can choose to stay calm and not take it all so seriously. You can choose to nag your young athlete to work hard, or you can choose to let them learn the consequences of their choices.
Recognizing that you have a choice and actually following through on that choice process are two different things. But once you understand that making a choice is a process and once you grasp what that process entails, you can take control of your reactions. I love the process laid out in the book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, where the author lays out a four step process: A,B,C and D. Let’s do that with youth sports parenting.
Learning to make good choices in terms of behavior starts with an awareness that you actually have a choice. Furthermore, one must accept that maybe, just maybe, one’s behavior is less than desirable.
How many times have you said something and immediately knew that it was not the smartest thing to say? That’s awareness, and that’s the first step in the process of making good choices.
Once you become aware that you are starting to overreact, then ask yourself this question: Do I need to step back, pause and gain perspective?
Obviously, this is not easy in the heat of a moment. The more you practice it, the more of a habit it will become. Sports parents are notorious for emotional outbursts, which would be avoided if they’d stop to breathe and pause before proceeding.
Once you step back and try to gain perspective, it’s time ask yourself this question: What’s really going on in this situation? Am I perhaps missing something? Asking yourself this question may require you to do some soul-searching.
For instance, you sit through a game where you feel your young athlete gets little playing time and it makes you very upset. You feel your blood pressure rising and are aware that you might explode at the coach after the game. You stop to breathe and pause before proceeding. You take a minute to ask yourself what’s really going on. Is your child frustrated, or is it just you? Is this a situation that your child should handle by talking to the coach him or herself? Does your child fully understand his or her role on the team? Do you?
At this point, you can decide what the best course of action is. Choose the action that will be best for your young athlete, not for your frustrations. Choose the action that will best help your young athlete to grow through the situation, not what eases your anger. Decide to take a big-picture view of your child’s youth sports experience, in hopes that he or she will truly learn and grow from it.
If you start practicing this choice process, there’s no doubt that you’ll have less regrets and more fun watching your young athlete play youth sports.