Cincinnati Family Magazine

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April 15, 2024

kids sports

Parenting Kids in Sports

Guiding your kids through their sports journey takes more than a little push and shove.

Parenting through the realm of sports offers a dynamic landscape where interest, discipline and character development intersect with athletic achievement. As parents, navigating this terrain involves more than just cheering from the sidelines or driving to practices. It’s about instilling life lessons, resiliency and nurturing a healthy relationship with competition. Whether it’s the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat, guiding your children through sporting endeavors is an opportunity to mold them into well-rounded individuals equipped for the challenges both on and off the field.

Parenting Kids in Sports

SHOULD I PUSH MY KID TO PLAY SPORTS?

Whether or not to push your child to play sports is a decision that depends on various factors, including your child’s interests, abilities and developmental stage, as well as your own motivations and approach.

  • Consider your child’s interests and preferences when encouraging participation in sports.
  • Exposing kids to different sports allows them to discover what they enjoy and where their talents lie.
  • Emphasize the importance of enjoyment in sports rather than focusing on performance or competition.
  • Create a supportive environment and offer encouragement, but avoid the pressure of expectations.
  • Prioritize your child’s overall well-being, including their physical/mental health, academic responsibilities and social development.
  • While it’s important to encourage children to participate in physical activity and sports, pushing them into activities they don’t enjoy or aren’t ready for can be counterproductive. It can lead to burnout, injury negative psychological effects. Instead, focus on providing opportunities for exploration, fostering enjoyment and supporting the child’s interests and well-being. Ultimately, the goal should be to promote a positive and lifelong relationship with physical activity rather than forcing participation for external reasons.

SETTING THE EXAMPLE

You’re an important part of creating a healthy sporting environment. You can serve as a role model for your kids in sports, helping them to develop life skills such as sportsmanship, resilience and a healthy attitude towards competition.

Kelsey Logan, director of sports medicine with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center shares that, “research shows that when parents exhibit poor behavior on the sidelines, our kids see this and model it.”

HOW TO HANDLE LOSSES AND LETDOWNS

But what about the losses and the let downs? Parenting kids in sports includes a lot of that.

“Your relationship with your child is important and helps get them through the personal and team challenges that occur in sports,” Logan says. “You supporting the hard work, sportsmanship and follow through involved in sports participation makes a big difference in helping young athletes develop; kids are certainly disappointed when things don’t go well for them on the field. Acknowledge this when your child is upset. It is OK for them to feel disappointed, embarrassed or hurt. They need you to validate this,” she adds.

Shriver, a 13-year-old athlete, says the most helpful thing his parents do after a loss is to give him space. “They leave me alone to think about the game, but the next day they provide me with encouragement,” Shriver says.

FROM RECREATIONAL TO COMPETITIVE

Moving a child from recreational sports to competitive sports can have both advantages and disadvantages. Parenting kids in sports has pros and cons.

PROS:

  • Competitive sports typically offer more structured training and coaching, which can lead to improved skills and performance.
  • Competitive sports can teach important life skills such as discipline, teamwork and perseverance.
  • In some cases, excelling in competitive sports can open doors to scholarships for college or future opportunities in the sport at a higher level; note that your child needs to be exceptional for that opportunity.

CONS:

  • Competitive sports often come with higher expectations and pressure to perform, which can lead to stress, anxiety and burnout.
  • The intensity of competitive sports can increase the risk of injury due to factors such as overtraining, higher levels of physical contact and increased competition.
  • Competitive sports require a significant time commitment for practices, games and travel, which can impact a child’s academic performance, social life and overall well-being.
  • Competitive sports can be expensive, with costs associated with registration fees, equipment, travel and private coaching. This financial burden may not be feasible for all families. Ultimately, the decision to move a child from recreational sports to competitive sports should consider the individual child’s interests, goals and well-being. It’s important to strike a balance between providing opportunities for growth and development in the sport while prioritizing the child’s overall happiness and well-being.

IF YOUR KID WANTS TO QUIT

When a child expresses a desire to quit a sport, it’s essential for parents to approach the situation with empathy, understanding and open communication. Here is some advice for parents in this situation:

  • Take the time to listen to your child’s reasons for wanting to quit the sport. Encourage them to express their feelings openly and without fear of judgment.
  • Ask questions to uncover the underlying reasons behind their desire to quit. It could be due to lack of interest, burnout, social issues, pressure or dissatisfaction with the experience.
  • Let your child know that you support them no matter what decision they make. Offer encouragement and reassurance, emphasizing that their well-being and happiness are more important than their participation in the sport.
  • Explore alternative options with your child if they’re open to it. They may be interested in trying a different sport or activity that better aligns with their interests and goals.
  • Use this as a teaching moment to discuss the importance of commitment, perseverance and overcoming challenges. Help your child understand that it’s normal to face difficulties and setbacks in any endeavor and that quitting isn’t always the solution.
  • Maintain open lines of communication with your child throughout the process. Let them know that they can always come to you with any concerns or changes in their feelings about the sport.

“Sports interest and participation should always be led by the child,” says Logan. “Always. When you push an athlete to participate beyond readiness or interest, you may create an environment that they cannot succeed in,” she adds.

MODELING GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP

  • Focus on the effort and attitude your child puts into their sport rather than on winning or losing.
  • Show that hard work, dedication and perseverance are valuable traits regardless of the outcome.
  • Avoid displaying frustration, anger or criticism toward your child, coaches or officials.
  • Keep healthy attitudes toward competition by emphasizing the importance of doing one’s best.
  • Highlight the value of challenging oneself and striving for personal growth.
  • Encourage your child to maintain a healthy balance between sports, academics, social activities and rest.
  • Model self-care behaviors such as prioritizing rest, proper nutrition and maintaining perspective on the role of sports in their overall well-being.
  • Engage in sports-related activities with your child, such as practicing together, attending games or matches and supporting their involvement in the sport.
  • Use honest communication with your child about their experiences in sports.

 

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About the Author

Tina Pratt

Tina Pratt is the mom of two littles. She is a former PreK- 5 special education teacher that now works as a behavior coach. She enjoys being a tourist in her own town and finding ways to embed lessons into everyday fun!