When I first started having kids, I can remember worrying that I might not feel like being an engaged dad. My father had me when he was a little older and when I was in high school he spent several years really sick and had to miss a lot of my life. I was an athlete, so that meant he missed a lot of my games. I always thought I wanted to be a dad that supported my kids, including their sports. I don’t blame my dad, it wasn’t his fault. But I knew I wanted my kids to see me in the stands.
But, what if I didn’t feel like going to their games? Especially when they were young. After all, I never liked watching little kids trip around a football field or stink up a basketball court. I remember watching a T-ball game where a ball miraculously made it into the outfield. The shortstop and two outfields all dove on the ground and wrestled for the ball. After what seemed like minutes, one of the kids jumped up, held up the ball in triumph and did a victory dance. Forget that the baserunner was rounding third base, he had won the only contest he cared about at that moment. Was I going to be willing to watch that… even if it was MY kids?
If you’re a parent, chances are you already know where this is going. When it was my kids playing I loved following their games… yes, even T-ball. But now I had a new problem. I found myself having to fight from becoming the OVER-INVOLVED parent! There’s a fine line and a tension we must walk as parents if we want to raise our athletes with a healthy perspective of sports.
Here are 7 tips you should consider if you have children involved in athletics. We also produced a 40 second video highlighting these same 7 tips (CLICK HERE TO SEE VIDEO).
- Affirm EFFORT instead of ACCOMPLISHMENT. Rather than focus on phrases like, “good game” or “nice shooting” or “great win”… affirm things like, “wow, you were working so hard out there” or “It looked like all that hard work you’ve been putting in really paid off” or “I love watching you play”. We want to teach our kids to compete and to work hard, but they can miss out on a lot if they think the only measurement is how many points they score or touchdowns they make.
- It takes TEAMWORK to SUCCEED. Encourage your child to be a team player… to put the needs of the team ahead of their own desires.
- NEVER, NEVER, NEVER… give up! Grit, tenacity, stick-to-it-tiveness… that’s what we want to have our kids learn from athletics. Once they start a season, they finish. If they get behind, they play hard until the last whistle… no matter what!
- Enjoy it TOGETHER! Find ways to play together… go bowling, play whiffle ball, or just play catch together.
- Win or Lose – BE THERE to support. Yes we want to teach our kids to compete. But once the contest is over, we embrace them and support them… win, lose, or draw.
- RELATIONSHIPS are what matter. Compete, work hard, have fun, but don’t miss out on building relationships with your teammates and coaches (and parents for you and other parents!). Years from now, that’s what you will matter.
- Remind them to be THANKFUL! We made it a habit to have our kids thank their coaches after every practice. Encourage your kids to be thankful to you for providing the means for them to be involved. And certainly, make sure they thank GOD for healthy bodies and the opportunity to play.
Of course there are more tips for parents and we’ll share them in the weeks to come. Here’s an ARTICLE I (David) wrote about my biggest regret parenting an athlete. But we would be remiss if we didn’t end this with a reminder to HAVE FUN! After all, at the end of the day… IT’S A GAME!
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced with your athletes? What are your favorite athletic moments with your kids? We’d love to hear your story.
David & Kelli