I am often asked my opinion on things that involve football. The questions range from how to find which player position best suits a child to who I think will win the Super Bowl, and pretty much everything in between. I have many thoughts on the game, on coaching, and on improving performance, so I am starting Passing Thoughts to share some of those thoughts. I welcome your comments and conversation. –KR

Monday, December 9, 2013

Being a Better Sports Parent

Sitting at a recent basketball tournament for young kids, I witnessed a parent get removed from the gymnasium for constant verbal attacks at the officials. As parents, we often become so engaged in the event that we forget about our most important job: We are role models, and we are trying to teach our kids about much more than wins and losses.

"Ten Things Parents of Athletes Need to Know" is a blog post by Stefanie Mullen that was passed along to me recently by a friend. She gives us 10 simple but important points to consider as we attend sporting events with our children. I felt it was worthwhile to pass along. Many of the points were relevant for all of us who continue to follow our kids all over the country for sporting events.

I thought she made some great points that are solid reminders for parents, and I expanded on the ones that I think need to be repeated often:

1) Remember that sports need to be fun for kids. When it is not fun, then things need to be evaluated. Kids should not play sports because we want them to!
2) Never talk to a coach about your child's play or performance after a game. Emotions are always high after the game, and it's best to let cooler heads prevail. If it is absolutely necessary to meet, then do it at the appropriate time.
3) Your kids are always watching you! Never yell at the officials. Do not ever make a scene that embarrasses your kids. Don't be so wrapped up in winning that you are losing your mind on the sideline. Your most important job is to model sportsmanship, win or lose.
4) Do not coach your child from the stands. One of the worst things you can do is create an environment where your child is always looking up in the stands for guidance or coaching from you. Be a supporter of your child and your coach. Always.
5) Let your kids fail. Some of the greatest lessons and challenges come from a tough loss. Kids need to learn to be gracious winners and losers. It's an incredibly important lesson that they will carry with them forever.

In her blog post, Mullen also encourages athletes to stay fit and active year-round, but not to focus on one sport. I agree that maintaining physical activity is the most important thing, and making sure it is enjoyable for kids is the best way to keep them active. We also need to remember that our kids are not likely to go on to the pros, but they are likely to take the lessons learned on the field or court into their lives. We need to remember our role and support healthy activity and positive relationships with teammates and coaches.

The thing I love about working with kids and sports is that practices and games provide really valuable teaching moments for them. We need to make sure that the lessons they are learning from us are lessons we can be proud of throughout their athletic careers and lives. The most important thing to remember is that we need to be at our best as parents if we expect to see their best as young athletes!

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