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If you really want to help your young athlete succeed, grow and develop, then I have three simple suggestions: Simmer down, surrender, and see the little things.
When I say simmer down, I do not suggest that you should be apathetic about your child’s youth sports experience. I’m not even saying that it’s bad to be nervous or even get upset about things that happen. Throughout the course of your young athlete’s sports journey, there will undoubtably be things that frustrate you or cause you angst.
What I am saying is that you should not be so obsessed about your young athlete’s performance that you keep a very narrow view of the whole experience and refuse to see the true value of youth sports.
What does that mean? It means that you can zoom out and see more than just this game, this tournament, even this season. It means that you never forget that the most important part of the youth sports experience is not your young athlete’s stats, press clippings or awards.
The most important part of youth sports is who your child becomes in the process.
Someday, they will outgrow sports, but they will never outgrow the character lessons they learn while playing. When you can see the bigger picture, then and only then can you relax, knowing that the world will not end if they don’t get playing time or if they don’t score enough points.
One of the hardest jobs of parenting is learning to let go. For a while, when your kids are little, you are pretty much in control. Still, your job is to prepare your kids to someday be independent. And that’s why you must start surrendering them a little bit at a time.
Surrendering means that you let them make mistakes, and help them learn from them. It means encouraging them to fight their own battles, whether it’s confronting a coach or a teammate. Surrendering includes teaching them how to make their own choices and how to understand the consequences of those choices.
Surrendering complete control of your kids means that you must resist the temptation to always make their path a smooth and easy one. There are times to step in and help, and there are times to let them figure it out.
See the Little Victories
Maybe the game was a disastrous loss. Or your child only played two minutes. Or maybe your little athlete got in the game only to make some major goofs. Nothing to celebrate there, right?
Look for your child’s small victories. They are in every game. Recognize good skills and plays on both sides. Sometimes, it is just simply the fact that your young athlete is able to play sports.
Seeing the little victories may not come easy for some of you. If so, you must practice looking for the positive.
Being a sports parent is consuming and emotionally draining, adding another layer of challenge to the already demanding job of parenting. But I am convinced that if you can remember to simmer down, surrender and see the little victories, your sports parenting experience will be much more enjoyable, for you and your athlete.