5 Ways to Support Your Child in Sports

The most crucial thing a sports parent can offer their young athlete is unconditional support.  Drawing on years of sports psychology and parenting research, here are five ways you can support your children in sport.

While these five strategies apply during any phase of childhood and adolescence research has found they are particularly important for children between the ages of 10 and 15.

If you are a sports parent, remember one golden rule: consistency is critical. Be consistent in your behaviors and words. Inconsistency creates confusion.

1. Provide Emotional Support.

This refers to providing unconditional love. It is especially important during challenging or stressful times. You are the number one source of emotional support for your children in sport. They need someone to turn to. Emotional support must be unconditional and not dependent on how well you think your child may be playing or competing.

2. Emphasize Effort And Personal Improvement Over Outcome

When you put too much emphasis on winning and losing (these are outcomes), your children can experience anxiety and even reduced motivation to stay involved in a sport. It is better to focus on effort and personal improvement.

Helping your children understand that you value them trying hard above all else, and reinforcing when they are getting better, is really important, especially when they are young and still learning about how to compete.

3. Foster independence

It is okay to be highly involved in your children’s sport, but the evidence suggests that high involvement must be balanced with providing children with autonomy and independence. You can set boundaries but allow your children some freedom and independence within these boundaries.

For example, a boundary might be telling your child, “You must always be prepared for practices,” and the independence might be, “You are responsible for making sure you have your equipment and water.” As your children demonstrate they can be personally responsible, you can experiment with giving them more freedom.

4. Communicate and share goals

Why does your child play sport? What are their long-term goals for sport? Have you ever asked these questions? If not, you should, because good sports parents communicate with their children and help support their children’s goals for sport.

Some children may want to excel and reach high levels in their sport. Others may simply wish to experience the joy of participating without aspirations of reaching a high level.

You should support the goals your children have picked rather than trying to impose your own goals. And remember, your children’s goals may change as they progress through sport. It is important to ‘check-in’ with them as they age to ensure you are providing the necessary support.

5. Behave how children want you to behave before, during, and after competitions.

Several studies have involved asking children what they want from their parents before, during, and after competitions.

Before competitions children want parents to help them relax and make sure they arrive on time.

During competitions children want parents to encourage the entire team, maintain control of emotions, stay positive, and focus on effort rather than outcome.

After competitions, children want positive yet honest feedback. However, parents should be careful to read their children’s mood before discussing performances.

Let the coach take care of the technical and tactical advice and focus your feedback on the effort and attitude of your child.

original source: http://activeforlife.com/5-ways-to-support-your-child-in-sport/

Nick Holt. Nick Holt is a Professor in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta. His research focuses on psychosocial aspects of participation in youth sport and physical activity among children, adolescents, and their families. He is a Member of the Royal Society of Canada, College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists.

Active for Life helps parents raise physically literate kids. At activeforlife.com, parents, educators, and coaches will find fun activities, engaging articles, and free resources to get kids active, healthy and happy.

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