For a youth coach, nothing beats a group of supportive parents who get their kids to practices and games on time, pitch in when asked and encourage the players throughout the course of the season. There is a fine line, however, between being supportive and getting in the way. It is important for parents to support their kids’ athletic interests and to encourage their participation in sports. The importance of maintaining an active lifestyle can not be underestimated when it comes to developing healthy habits that will lead to a better quality of life as kids get older. Understanding how exercise and sports participation can help prevent obesity and the health risks that come with being overweight is an important life lesson. It’s just as important, however, for kids to learn what it means to be part of a team and to perform in an environment that is separated from too much parental interference. Of course kids love to see and hear the support of their families while competing, and coaches love having a group of supportive parents. But, unless you are an actual member of the coaching staff or are assisting the team in another “official” capacity, give your kids some space when they are competing. Getting too involved in the learning process that kids go through when participating in youth sports can lead to confusion that results in on-field paralysis. If your child is listening for your voice instead of focusing on what the coaches might be saying, or is trying to listen to both of you at the same time, he or she is either going to wait too long to react or is going to respond inappropriately – at least in the coach’s view. If you want to coach, sign up for that responsibility before the season starts. Otherwise, save your coaching for the backyard. Even if you shout out an instruction that your kid follows and you know that you are right, if it’s not what the child is being instructed to do by the coach, you are causing the team to function less efficiently and undermining the team’s authority figures. That type of behavior does not set a good example for our kids.
Throughout life we are faced with situations in which we work for somebody who has a different approach than we do or we are assigned to work on a project with a group of people who may think differently or might not be true team players. In those instances it is our responsibility to learn to function efficiently within that environment. Teaching our kids to freelance or deviate from the system that has been established is setting them up for a lifetime of frustration and other personal and professional difficulties. Youth sports provides parents with the best of both worlds: You get an opportunity to be close to your kids and support them – they know you are there and enjoy having you around – while at the same time letting go and allowing them to learn how to function independently, socialize and interact with authority figures.
If something serious happens – like an injury or illness – you are there to take care of everything. If something good happens you are there to shout your approval. If something bad happens you can provide encouragement. Instead of getting caught up in what the coach is doing or trying to correct every mistake, enjoy this opportunity to be close to your kids and allow them to do something they love while still giving them the chance to grow up and expand their horizons. Sharing the sports experience should be something that parents and kids look forward to, something that creates wonderful memories that can last a lifetime. Sports are meant to be a diversion, not a source of stress, tension or disagreement between you and your child or you and your child’s coach. Show up, support your kids, play with them at home, and most of all, enjoy the moment. It goes by too fast not to.