Thousands of young people from Little Leaguers to college sports will hit the fields this fall. Some will be there because they love the sport; others because their parents want them to experience being part of a team.
As a parent, have you thought about what it would be like to be your child on the field? Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine what it would be like listening to you in the stands. Would you hear words that encouraged and built you up or words and actions that were negative, overly competitive and just plain embarrassing? From ranting at coaches to booing at children, parents across the country are getting a bad reputation for their behavior at sporting events.
In conversations with coaches, they don't usually worry about the children causing problems; it's the parents. In fact, many teams begin their year with a parents' meeting to explain behavioral expectations. Some groups actually ask parents to sign an agreement stating they will behave or the coaches have the right to banish them from games.
Let's assume that, whether parents are overzealous or not, most have the best interest of their child at heart. That being said, as parents, it is important to consider why your child is involved in sports. Most children say they play sports because it is fun and they make new friends. While some do aspire to play professional sports, it is important to remember there are about 17,000 professional athletes in the United States. With the current population around 300 million, your child has a 0.00565 percent chance of becoming a professional athlete.
As you head out to cheer your child on, keep in mind they are watching you and taking their lead from you.
• Be a great role model. Take advantage of every opportunity to model good sportsmanship. Avoid being negative. Never berate your child, the coach or someone else's child for a mistake made on the field. It is humiliating and embarrassing for your child and the team. These are young people and it is just a game.
• Avoid coaching from the sidelines. Most of the coaches are doing their best. You know what they say about armchair quarterbacks; coaches do not need your help from the stands.
• Know your child's goals. Too many parents bring their own goals versus their child's goals to the game.
• The goal is to have fun. Too many children are quitting sports because "it's not fun anymore."
• There will always be a winner. Teach your children how to be a good winner and a good loser. It will serve them well throughout their life.
• Avoid player-bashing and being critical. Would you want someone trashing your child?
There is a difference between confidence and arrogance. Confidence in action is a beautiful thing to watch; arrogance can rip a team apart or keep it from coming together in the first place.
Jim Thompson, founder and CEO of the Positive Coaching Alliance, a national advocacy group based in California, has this advice:
"As a parent, your job revolves around the Big Picture - making sure your child takes away life experiences and life lessons from sports that will make him a stronger, more responsible and confident person in life. Don't let the Little Picture - winning a game - cloud your vision or his/hers."
Julie Baumgardner is the president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.