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When you register your child for a sports activity, it’s not always easy to know your place as a parent. Should you be asking questions? Should you be helping with equipment or water? Should you be doing extra practice with your child at home? There are many ways that you can help to support your child’s sports experience. Here are some thoughts and suggestions on how to be involved in a positive way.
You are welcome to ask questions
Most coaches are happy to answer questions you might have about the program, goals for the team or your child, expectations around conduct and attendance, or the coaching style and philosophy in general. Just remember, it’s not about debating the relative merits or wisdom of the coach’s decisions around training and competition. This is simply information sharing so you can be on the same page as the coach.
Coaching is demanding work. It’s time-consuming and energy intensive. If you are able to help the coach by providing healthy team snacks, bringing water, driving kids to games, or helping to organize tournament travel or special events, you can be sure that your child’s coach will be very appreciative. Contact the coach or team manager outside of training and game time and ask them what you can do to help.
Your child is not a mini-adult
Coaches who understand the principles of Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) know that your child is not a mini-adult. To keep in line with LTAD principles, they will adjust the tone, content, and structure of your child’s training accordingly. If any of these principles or approaches seem unusual, you might want to take a minute to read about LTAD and why it is important. Again, it’s very helpful for the coach if you are on the same page.
Providing support at home
After practices and games, most coaches will take a few minutes to debrief the kids on what went well and what didn’t, as well as possibly addressing any challenging social dynamics on the team. Your child may or may not want to discuss these themes further with you in private. Be sensitive to what your child may be feeling. Be prepared to either remain silent in the car ride home or provide a listening ear if they need to talk. Be an active listener and simply help your child to sort out his or her thoughts without judging or instructing. Sometimes it’s enough simply to offer a few encouraging words.
Disclose special health needs
Has your child been assessed with a medical issue or an invisible disability? Be sure to note it on your child’s health form and talk with your child’s coach in private. This is important information as it helps the coach to ensure your child’s needs are properly addressed.
You can step back at games and practices
You provide valuable support by listening and talking with your child, providing snacks and water, driving to games and practices, and offering general assistance to your child’s coach. However, once your child arrives at a game or a practice, the coach simply wants you to sit back, watch, cheer, and enjoy.
Leave the coaching to the coach. If you have checked all the boxes above, you should be able to rest confidently in the knowledge that the coach will take care of the rest.
Jim Grove has coached girls’ and boys’ soccer for over 15 years. He has a degree in education and an NCCP coaching certification. Married with three children, he has spent nearly two decades developing children’s love of sport and physical activity, while promoting excellence for those who pursue high performance. Follow Jim on Twitter, @grovecoach or check out Active for Life, which helps parents raise physically literate kids.