Encouraging Young Athletes

By Jeremy Brown

The 2016-17 school year is beginning for some Tri-State schools next week, which also means the start of fall sports — an exciting time for young athletes and their parents.

Every parent wants to watch their child succeed at a high level, and that desire can lead to riding the thin line between being a passionate sports fan or an overemotional one. What’s the best way to encourage our kids, maintain composure and avoid being “that” parent?

The website ilovetowatchyouplay.com provides many resources for parents on how to support their athletes, but its core philosophy is encouraging kids by saying, “I love to watch you play.”

According to Dr. Mara Smith, a guest contributor for the site, the role of parents in youth sports is to enjoy watching your child play while they focus on what’s most important: having fun.

“We need to help them understand that playing isn’t about things being perfect, always turning out the way they want, or winning,” Smith says. “But rather, being equipped to handle what comes their way. Preparing for a life where they persevere in the face of failure, that they focus on their own efforts and not outcomes and that they feel the exhilaration of exerting themselves. But far too often our (parents) behavior, even if it is unintended, undermines all the wonderful lessons sports can and should teach a child.”

Don’t yell at the referees. Don’t bark coaching instructions from the bleachers. Focus on catching your child doing something right, rather than emphasizing something they did wrong. Positive reinforcement is the best way to instill confidence and make children feel valued.

Whether Johnny makes 10 tackles or misses 10 tackles, whether Susie nets two goals or surrenders two goals, the encouragement and support should remain consistent.

Your role as a parent is to enjoy and encourage. So sit back and have fun watching your child experience the fun and learn the lessons that sports bring.

Jeremy Brown is the TEENPOWER, Communications and Special Events Coordinator at Youth Resources.