There have been hundreds of examples of the crazy sports parents displayed on social media or written about in newspapers and blogs across the country. Including past editions of this blog.
I have railed several times about “crazy softball parents” and it has given me some time to consider a couple very simple things. It’s easy to point to the bad actors but how about a pat on the back for the good parents. Or a simple list of things that we hope all parents can aspire to to become better sports parents.
Things that good youth sports parents do:
1. Emphasize sports as a way for our kids to develop as people and grow as athletes.
This can be very difficult, because we all want our kids to shine. Winning is fun but shouldn’t come at the cost of learning the positive things that come from being a part of a team. None of our kids are going to be professional athletes and very few of them are going to get big college scholarships. We gain so much more from emphasizing the growth versus the outcome.
2. Decrease the pressure to win!
Just playing the game is loaded with plenty of challenges and inherent pressure to win. Do not pile on your kids with additional pressure to win. Especially at the expense of improvement and growth as a person or player.
3. Emphasize personal growth and improvement over winning or personal recognition.
We have no control over the outcome of the game or who gets individual recognition. Point out growth and improvement over wins or recognition.
4. Stay on the right side of the line of parent versus coach.
Unless you are really the coach of the team, be a parent and let the coaches coach. When you cross the line you send very confusing messages to your kid. You chose to play for this coach…
5. Communicate directly with the coach.
You have every right to have an adult conversation with the person who is coaching your child. Keep it professional and ask questions rather than make demands. Do not talk to other parents about your concerns take them to the coach.
6. Remain positive when negative would be easy!
Your kid isn’t perfect. They will make mistakes. If you remain positive and help them grow through the rough spots they will continue to grow and love the game. If you pile negativity on top of what they are already feeling they will play tight and fear making another mistake. When you handle the mistakes well they are learning opportunities, when you lose your mind they become nightmares.
7. Our pride will be hurt but reacting well is crucial.
We all get caught up in feeling that our kids performance is a reflection on us. We are somehow lesser parents because our kid struck out or whatever. All we can ask is that our kids try their hardest, and if they do that, we are probably pretty good parents! The mistake is just that.
8. Never use fear as a tool.
Withdrawing love or punishing your child as a motivator is clearly wrong. And it will never lead to a better performance.
9. Recognize our kids insecurity.
Our kids are trying to please us. When they get nervous or insecure or fearful of failure they need us to build them back up and support them. They need our emotional support.
10. Never use guilt as a tool.
No matter how much time, money or sacrifice you have invested in your kids softball experience you can not guilt them into performing better. Reminding them of all you have sacrificed for them isn’t going to increase the likelihood that they play better, it is more likely to push them way from the game. Which kids quit most? You know the answer.
There are undoubtedly more things that supportive youth sports parents do but this is a pretty good list. Let’s start here!
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.