A while back I vividly remember a youth volleyball tournament and observing a match between two very good 10 year- old teams when the parents started behaving badly.

It was just a battle, going back and forth. After it was over, the parents were still yelling at the coaches, officials and other parents.  Meanwhile, the kids from both teams went outside to play some kind of circle game, and they were all laughing and having fun. I was thinking, Oh, my gosh, who are the grownups, and who are the kids?

Welcome to the world of youth sports where sometimes the parents are more immature than the kids.

I know what you are thinking.  You would NEVER act like that if your child was playing, but I’ll bet if you are a sport’s parent, you have at least gone through some trying times when you had to hold yourself back from reacting and either saying or doing something really stupid.  So what it is about youth sports that causes parents to behave in these strange ways?

Trust me, I know.  After raising two daughters and being fully immersed in sports, not only as a sports parent, but also as a coach and athlete, I know that being a sports parent is both a unique and challenging experience.  This is especially true for parents of young athletes, because when their youngsters start to play sports, they go from controlling their children to becoming helpless observers as they watch their sons or daughter go through the ups and downs of being an athlete.  At times it is elating and wonderful.  Other times it can be stressful and painful.    A quote from Earl Wilson, a former professional baseball player and columnist sheds light on how it feels: “For the parents of a Little Leaguer, a baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown into innings.”  If you haven’t experienced the Fight or Flight experience lately, you will when your child plays a sport and will probably get very familiar with the adrenaline surge, which feels as if an outside force is taking over your body.

If you have children playing sports, here are three suggestions on how to make the upcoming season both tolerable and enjoyable for you and your kids and keep you from acting like a maniac.

 

  1. Know your role as a sport’s parent. Unless you are asked to coach or help out, your role is to support your child, the team and the coach and also get your kids to the games and competitions.  Let the coach do the Coaching.  I know that this might be hard, especially if you know more than the coach, but unless you are asked, don’t give unsolicited advice. Also, don’t coach your kid from the sidelines.  Not only is it not appreciated by the coach, it is embarrassing to the child.
  2. Keep youth sports in perspective. Many parents look at sports with a competitive mindset, while young kids play sports because they’re fun, and they want to be with their friends. But what do most parents focus on? Winning, getting trophies or dreaming of scholarships.  As children get older, they usually do get more competitive, but they still want to have fun.  Also remember that there are a lot of life lessons athletes can learn from sports, such as accountability, persistence, self- discipline, following rules, respect, teamwork and communication skills. Developing these characteristics will help your kids be successful in many areas of their lives long after they are done playing sports.
  3. Make sure your child WANTS to participate in the sport. I have seen a lot of kids play sports because of their parents.  This is not fair to the kid, his or her teammates or the coach.   You can usually tell who these kids are since they don’t listen to the coach or interact with their teammates, are never paying attention to what’s happening during the game, and sulk and complain whenever possible.  There are other activities such as martial arts, dance, music, acting, and even another sport that might fit a child better.

 

Being a kid is a special time and as we all know, it goes fast.  As you travel the journey of sports parenting I challenge you to notice how you interact with your child when he or she is playing sports.  Is there camaraderie?  Do you feel closer and more bonded because of your participation?  If so, you probably have sports in perspective and your child will reap the rewards of being an athlete.  Remember to make sure sports are fun for both your young athlete and YOU.  Always be there to support your child however you can without trying to take over since there will always be some challenges.   Remember, it’s NOT YOUR GAME.  It’s your child’s.

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Sharkie Zartman Health Coach, Professor, Radio Host, Author

Sharkie Zartman, MA, is a college professor, a former All-American athlete, and award winning volleyball coach. She hosts Sharkie’s Pep Talk on HealthyLife.net Radio Network and is a certified health coach, speaker, and the author of five books including Shark Sense, Empowered Aging, Have Fun Getting Fit, Hey Sports Parents, and her newest, WIN at AGING. She is passionate about helping people take an empowered approach to life so they can have optimal health, happiness, and success at any age.

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