How Parents Can Encourage Children in Athletics

parents of athletic childrenIf your children are just starting to show an interest in athletics, there are some great ways to encourage them. Steve Boyle from 2-4-1 Sports shares some tips and tricks for sport parents just getting started.

We’re not just coaches, we’re parents too!

As the father of three athletic, teenage girls (19,17 and 15) I can tell you the road we’ve traveled to date has been full of potholes, pimples, and pathetic displays of emotion (mostly on my part). While they’ve turned out more than OK, (pretty awesome actually) I am not naive enough to say there aren’t some things we, as parents, might have done differently.  I like to think that they feel my wife Kerry and I did a good job raising them. I hope they think our job is not over but rather that we’ve given them enough independence to fly freely.

Like so many times in life I find myself at a point where relying on the knowledge and advice of friends is extremely beneficial. I’ve also realized that reflection is a powerful parenting tool. So as my wife and I were talking one day, we decided to see if we agreed on things we’ve done right and things that -well -maybe were not so right. Let me start by listing 3 things we’ve seen that you should NEVER do, followed by 4 things we admit to doing, but wish we hadn’t, and 5 things we feel really worked and helped shape our girls into the confident, active young women they are today.

3 Things You Should NEVER EVER Do As A Sports Parent:

  1. Don’t wait outside the official’s locker room so you can let them know (even more specifically than you did during the game) what you thought of their performance (this one landed one particular parent in jail).
  2. Don’t “rage” and engage with the crazy parent from the other team. It’s like trying to tell someone who has had too much to drink that you’re cutting them off. Once you’ve engaged, the kids stop playing and watch the lunacy in the stands. C’mon – we are adults. It’s really up to us to be positive role models.
  3. Never ever pay your child to score goals, make baskets, block shots or win games (or get good grades). If you do this, they will never build the internal motivation that is a core benefit of succeeding without external motivation. Please remember sports are for your children to be active, build confidence, have fun, and learn teamwork. It should feel important to them and they shouldn’t be playing sports to please you.

parents athletics

4 Things We Would Do Differently – based on reflection and conversations with our children

  1. “Traveling teams” should not even be introduced until 6th grade. Depending on where you live, travel is synonymous with “elite” and “better than”. While there is a temptation (that we admittedly fell for) to get your kids against “better” competition at a young age – be careful about the message you’re giving in response to that temptation.
  2. I imagine that this one is going to come across very strange, because I would give almost anything to see my kids play at a young age again. But, my advice would be – Do not go to every game your kids play in. I think by going to every game you give kids the message that it’s more important than it really is. So – if you do go because you feel you need to, HIDE!– And don’t let them know you’re there. (I think about the thousands of contests I was involved with as a kid that my parents didn’t even know existed. And how I was allowed to grow –  free from potential critique as a result.)
  3. I would keep abreast of technological trends that are on the horizon and come up with a set of rules to make sure they don’t let life interfere with my kids potential to be active every day. (The iPhone wasn’t introduced until 6 years after my youngest was born. I had no idea how much it would impact all of our lives).
  4. This is a particularly hard one as most think of me as the “multi-sport guy”, but ironically, I wish I exposed my girls to more sports. Because they were playing their “main” sports so competitively at such a young age, they never truly sampled as many sports as I wish they could have. For example, fencing, squash, crew and team handball are sports I think they would have loved and had fun with but never really had a chance to try.

athletic children

5 Things We’re Glad We Did As Sports Parents – and would do all over again!

  1. Chose livelihoods (teacher/coaches) that seamlessly allowed our children to be in sport settings and therefore constantly active.
  2. Always packed our car for summer vacations as if we were running a multi-sport camp. The kids could always choose what it was they wanted to play. (And I fell in love with girls lacrosse – tossing the ball on the beach).
  3. Made sure that they experienced coaches that weren’t always just us. We purposely made sure we never rescued them from coaching experiences they didn’t like. (This matters folks – I know you don’t want your kids to feel hurt or upset but it’s crucial for them to build resilience and adapt to situations they don’t always like because they will encounter these experiences in life)
  4. Had dinner together every night as much as possible (even if it was after 8 pm to be sure we were all there) and made Sunday night dinners special by having it in another room where we talked about the week behind us and the week ahead of us. Yes – sports were often a topic of conversation, but we talked about so much more and our identity as a family unit was formed at these meals!
  5. We made sure they tried things outside of sports they were interested in and we encouraged them to develop all aspects of their personalities (piano, fine arts, dance).

I learned a few years ago that the most important thing you can say to your kids on the car ride home is “I love watching you play.”  Our kids don’t need to hear about how much better they are than everyone else or how much they just messed up. They just want to know that we love them, and we support them.

I’m approaching age 50 and my kids are approaching their 20’s. I don’t get a do-over! Yet,  I’m feeling extremely blessed to know that making activity a part of our lives has been healthy for all of us. Without having a plan or knowing I was doing it, I somehow fumbled through creating physically literate children who have the ability, confidence and desire to be active for life. But – knowing what I know now about physical literacy – if I were to start over again, I might not leave things up to fate and would be more deliberate about exposing my kids to free play, fundamental movement skills and a life of activity that will keep them happy and healthy for years to come.  Alannah, Michaela and Siobhan – keep making mom and I proud – simply by by being play-filled and play-full!

And here’s my #1 tip: Don’t wish any of the days away! There is no age that is better than another. Live in the moment.

About The Author:

parents of athletic childrenSteve Boyle is the Principal and Founder of 2-4-1 Sports, a national organization that encourages children to be active in sports. By using sports sampling through camps, PLUSS Clubs™, and BrainErgizers™ they can bring their philosophy Life’s 2 Short 4 Just 1 Sport to life. Steve has a diverse background in teaching, athletic coaching, college advising, life-coaching and counseling.

More Great Blog Posts

2 thoughts on “How Parents Can Encourage Children in Athletics

  1. Pingback: February Daily Holidays & Observances Printable Calendar - S&S Blog

  2. While the suggestion to not go to every game might sound weird, it’s actually really helpful for your kids. I was a part of a more unconventional sport, horseback riding, but I preferred it when my mom did not show up to watch me. It gave me room to explore, grow, and perform without feeling like I would be criticized. I’ll definitely have to give this a try in the future. Thanks for sharing the tips.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *