This is the second part of yesterday’s Be a Good Sport!, which includes the last 5 things we need to do as parents to make sure our kids take the positive out of sports rather than the negative.
Excitement vs. Anxiety
When kids are excited about their sport, they are pumped up and ready to conquer the world. There is a positive outcome to this excitement and many coaches dedicate much energy to create this excitement in their players.
On the other hand, some kids’ excitement is turned into a form of anxiety, especially if they are not confident with their skills. This anxiety is not healthy for children (or anyone else, for that matter) and can drain their energy rather than increasing it. When kids are anxious, their heart rate goes up and they have sweaty hands. While excitement could improve the performance and enjoyment of the game, anxiety does exactly the opposite.
As parents, we have an important role (together with the kids’ coach) in making sure the excitement does not become an anxiety.
Respect the Coach (and the Officials)
Respecting your kids’ coach is the same as respecting any other mentor in their life. The coach, the tutor and teacher are extension of you in many ways. They do what you cannot do, whether it is because you are busy or just because they have a different expertise. If you respect them, you teach your kids to respect all their mentors, including you. There is a level of trust and respect that is the foundation for any sporting activity and needs to be there before any learning can take place.
It is very important to choose a coach who shares your values, so that you can trust them and show your respect toward them. If you choose the wrong coach, showing your respect will be very difficult and things will get messy for the kids.
With officials, like referees, umpires and desk operators, things are a bit different. Although you cannot choose them, you must respect their decisions, if only to show your kids the proper value of rules. If you find this hard, read on.
Playing is More Important than Winning
My son played in a basketball team for a whole year. He was a good player and got the opportunity to play a lot in each game. However, his coach was so eager to win that some other players, who were not as good, got little to no play time, and sat for entire games on the bench, no matter how early they came every Saturday morning.
Though our son played most of the time, we realised after a while that he was getting very upset whenever his team lost a game. He would say that the referee was… and the other team won only because… It was almost impossible to for him to see sense – winning was so important that his mood was controlled by the score on the board.
This is a very common behaviour in kids but very unhealthy for them and requires our watchful eyes in aligning our values with our kids and their coach. Coaches and teachers who emphasise the end result more than the process might give your kids a messages you do not want. Even at school, kids need to be measured individually, emphasising participation and improvement. “Most Improved” should to be a higher status that “Best Player”.
(Our solution was to volunteer to help with the coaching, so Gal, who is a life coach, was the best person to stick to such values. Many kids from other teams asked to join Gal’s team, only because he made sure everyone came to play basketball, not necessarily to win basketball. Even the kids who could hardly dribble got their chance to play in the game and it was wonderful to see the joy during and after each game, whatever the score).
Some sports are played in teams, like basketball, volleyball and soccer, while others are played by individuals, like swimming, running and tennis. Team sports require (and develop), in addition to the physical aspects, some social skills.
Individual sports can be more challenging than team sports, because the responsibility is only with one player, while in a team sport, the responsibility is shared between the players.
As parents, we need to make sure our kids do not choose an individual sport because of weak social skills, as this will only deepen their social isolation.
Encouraging vs. Pushing
There is a fine line between encouraging your kids in sport and pushing them. Saying to kids things like “Make us proud”, “Don’t disappoint us” or “We are counting on you” may produce the correct behaviour, but it will be based on fear, guilt and punishment. These feelings will then be associated with the sport, instead of the fun and the joy. Here is a list of things that will help you find out just how pushy you are regarding your kids’ sport:
- Pushy parents make sure they review the strategies with their kids before the game.
- Pushy parents make lots of effort to put their kids on the top team and get them special roles on the team.
- Pushy parents spend lots of extra money and time to make sure their kids are “the best” (some parents pay for extra lessons, private lessons and weekend workouts, just to make sure their kids are at the top of their team).
- Pushy parents always tell their kids how they feel at the end of each game. “I was happy with the way you did today” or “I was disappointed…”. The most serious cases say these things aloud, in front of everybody else.
- Pushy parents shout and scream and give their kids advice during games, because it is very important for them to win.
Encouraging parents do these things instead:
- Encouraging parents tell their kids it is important to enjoy the game and the real prize is playing, having fun and learning.
- Encouraging parents drive their kids to and from games and practice and pay for activities without complaining, because this is what their kids wanted to do.
- Encouraging parents tell their kids that every role in every game is important and that in every role, you can do the best you can.
- Encouraging parents ask their kids “Did you enjoy the game?”, “How did you feel when you scored/dropped the ball?” and “What did you do better today?”
- Encouraging parents tell their kids they are happy and proud of them regardless of the results in the game.
Sport is a healthy activity for children, as long as they are happy to take part in it and are encouraged to play the game. If you want to help your kids make the best of life, be “a good sport”!