Families everywhere are gearing up for another season of sports. As children lace up their shoes and head to their games and practices, parents are getting ready to cheer on and support their youth athletes.
I work in primary care sports medicine and pediatrics at TRIA. I spend lots of time talking with young athletes and parents. I see many parents who want their kids to not only succeed in sports, but also have fun and enjoy the activity. But sometimes even well-intentioned advice and support from parents can be too intense for kids and can cause problems or decrease the child’s enjoyment.
As parents, we don’t want to cause problems with over-intense advice or unrealistic expectations of our kids. We also don’t want to be uninterested or uninvolved. So how do we support our kids in sports in a healthy way?
It can be helpful to recognize behaviors to avoid when supporting our children in sports. For example, our words hold a lot of power. Avoid backseat conversation on the way home from the game. This can be confusing and unhelpful for young athletes. Let the coaches worry about the X’s and O’s and the scoreboard.
We should also avoid too much focus on weaknesses. Every athlete has unique strengths, so it is important to be realistic.
Burnout can be a problem for kids who specialize in one sport too early or feel too much pressure. Unfortunately, about 70 percent of kids quit organized sports by age 13. Avoid intense pressure and don’t ignore signs of burnout. Signs of burnout could include lack of motivation, decreased performance or persistent pain and injury.
There are many ways we can champion our children as they participate in group activities and sports. To start, we should encourage kids to sample many different sports and play the sport of the season. Keep the focus on fun, fitness and friends.
Young athletes need to bring positivity to each practice and game. As parents, we can model this behavior and honor the game by showing respect for coaches, teammates, officials and the opposing team.
Losing or failing in sports can be a good opportunity to support our children. It’s only a failure if you fail to learn from it. There are more life lessons in the losses. Mistakes should be encouraged. They are essential to eventually mastering a skill.
Youth sports can be an extremely fun way for kids to exercise, establish friendships and learn many life lessons. Encouragement and support can greatly enhance a kid’s experience in sports. This season, let’s be parents who help and support our kids in the healthiest way possible!
And don’t forget: It’s also important to maintain your athlete’s health and wellness with regular sports physicals, which screen for medical conditions that might make participating in sports unsafe. Learn more about sports physicals.