As a parent of four children with my own past full of a passion for sports, my journey has taken me to coaching my kids in many sports. I also hold the titles of chauffeur, laundry maid and queen of the snacks!
I get to witness firsthand that sports provide our children ways to build endurance and strength for a healthy body. Sports provide our children the ability to gain confidence, learn strategy and build the mental capacity to overcome defeat. Sports allow our children to learn how to work with others, build relationships and become leaders. As parents, our role in the lives of our young athletes is both important and impactful.
As a parent with a child beginning youth sports, it can be an exciting and anxious time in your and your child’s lives when they first join a team. You’re anxious for your child to learn, grow and be an impactful part of a team. Your child is excited to play, make friends and have fun. Finding your role in your child’s sports path can be both enjoyable and challenging.
Perhaps like me, your parenting path may lead you to coaching. If coaching youth sports interests you, I encourage planning and patience. Spend time researching practice and game ideas, get to know the kids on your team and their parents and have fun!
If your role is one of supporting from the sideline, you are still an important part of the team and your child’s growth in the sport. There are many roles a parent can perform to assist a youth sports team from managing the team to sideline cheerleader. Whether your child plays competitively or recreationally, your child and their coach will appreciate any effort you are willing to put in.
Life is all about teamwork whether in a professional setting or a personal relationship and as parents we want our kids to learn how to work together to achieve a common goal. Youth sports are more than win or lose. Youth sports are about empowering our children to grow and become individuals who are capable of being happy, healthy and hardworking. And as a parent of a child in youth sports, we are fortunate to take that journey with them.
Rebekah Mack is the mother of four children, a registered nurse, co-owner with her husband of Anytime Fitness in Edmond and lover of all sports. She has volunteered for many years as coach of her children’s basketball and soccer teams.
7 Tips to Support Your Youth Athlete
1. Whatever role you decide is best, whether coaching or cheering, remember the human aspect of the sport: the player and the coach are human, therefore imperfect.
2. If you aren’t coaching yourself, seek a coach who has similar values as your family, who will encourage your child to grow and work with others and who prioritizes collaboration and team success over individual accolades. Unfortunately, this might not happen on your first attempt as good coaches can be hard to find. Don’t get discouraged if you have to switch teams several times before finding the right fit for your athlete. Once you get on a supportive team, hold on to that support group for as long as you can. Your child will form lasting relationships that will endure for years.
3. Support the coach with encouraging words, kind advice and helpful actions. Your child’s coach may be a seasoned professional or new to the position and he or she will see the team, including your child’s progress, differently than you. Be willing and available to discuss your child’s position on the team or any concerns you may have with the coach during the appropriate time, which is typically before or after a practice or via a phone call, text or email.
4. Encourage and support your child with words of wisdom, backyard practices and a smile from the sideline.
5. Learn when your child needs nudging to improve versus understanding when they have met their limit.
6. During a game, let the sideline instruction come from the coach. As a parent, encourage your athlete from the sideline with encouraging language that will incite hard work and focus. Come up with short, specific words or phrases to use during a game that will encourage and support your child to remember to work hard and try their best. Words like “hustle,” “move your feet,” “keep working” or any phrase specific to their sport will remind them of their job on the team. Do not use discouraging words or new phrases during a game that your player will not understand as this can cause frustration.
7. Remember if your child is playing a team sport, the team is made of individual players who work together to win. Encourage your child to play the sport in a way that benefits the team, not their individual statistics.