There are many physical, psychological and social benefits associated with sports participation for young people. One of the biggest benefits of sport is building resilience and grit in our young people.
Parents can play a crucial role in maximising these benefits through providing appropriate support. That is, by providing positive, encouraging feedback. This is not always easy.
It can be an emotional rollercoaster watching your children succeed and fail as they compete, seeing the smiles of joy and satisfaction and sometimes fighting back tears of disappointment. Sometimes we can even feel as though our own worth as people fluctuates with our children’s success or otherwise.
The key to encouraging a healthy love of sport for our kids is to stay positive.
Be positive not pushy
Providing the right support, such as positive feedback, can help to enhance your child’s love of sport, promote and awareness of their own strengths, motivate them to keep working hard and can also reduce feelings of pressure and stress.
Positive parental involvement in sport helps develop important skills such as having a growth mindset and staying motivated. These skills transfer into other areas of life, such as school and extra-curricular activities.
Accept it is their sport
Letting your child choose their own sport strengthens their own identity. Having choice is motivating and builds sense of autonomy and independence. Be careful not to try to relive your youth through your child, you may have been a hero on the football field (or wanted to be), but that doesn’t mean that football will be your child’s choice of sport.
Trust the coach’s methods
Let the coach take care of tactical and technical advice, and focus your feedback on what’s working well in the effort and attitude of your child. Shouting out advice from the sidelines may not only affect your and your child’s reputation, but may also present ideas contrary to the coach’s plans, which could confuse your child and hinder their match.
Be an informed parent
Read up on their sport and know the rules. Understanding the basics of the game will not only mean you enjoy it more, but also means you can ensure your child plays by the rules.
Be a role model
Your child, particularly in the younger years, will always look up to see your reaction.
Whether this is after a great goal, them making an error or after a referee's decision, your reaction will rub off on them. Body language such as shaking your head in disapproval, disinterest or shouting at players or officials may send the wrong message to your child and will not create a respectful environment on the sideline.
Parents have the opportunity to be a role model for their children, and also to other parents in regards to accepting referee’s decisions, encouraging the entire team, applauding good play from the opposition and promoting good sportsmanship. Ultimately treating a win or a loss the same will show your child that it is just a game and you are proud of their effort, regardless of the outcome.
Provide emotional support
Providing emotional support is especially important when sport isn’t going how your child hoped. They need someone to turn to, and emotional support must be unconditional, not dependant on how your child is playing. Ask them what they thought about the game. If you are going to give feedback, focus on what worked well. There is evidence that coaches who spend time speaking about techniques and strategies that worked well get better outcomes than coaches who focus on fixing errors. Emphasise effort over outcome. Help them understand that you value them trying hard above all else.
Before the game
I love you.
After the game
Did you have fun?
I’m proud of you.
I love you.
The words children most want to hear is, “I love to watch you play”.
Written by Mr Martin Haywood, Head of Knox Sport and Aquatics Academy