Family Development - A Caregiver's Guide

Coaching Your Kids from the Sidelines

Participating in sports helps children develop a number of qualities that will have lifelong benefits. Studies suggest that participation in sports can help children learn responsible social behavior and gain an appreciation of personal health and fitness. Regular physical activity also helps the body manage stress, which can result in better school performance and improve your child’s ability to respond appropriately to daily challenges. In addition to these benefits, team sports give children a sense of belonging. Below are some tips to help parents build confidence and good character in their children through sporting activities.

Setting an Example for Your Child

  • Teach good sportsmanship. Be a role model to your child and other parents. Offer words of encouragement to your child, his or her teammates and their opponents.
  • Be respectful of everyone. Show respect for the other team, the coaches and the officials. Avoid criticizing a child’s athletic ability, a coach’s decision or an official’s call on a play. Keep this in mind when attending athletic events and watching sports on TV with your child as well. If you have a concern about a coach’s particular style of coaching, politely bring your concern to the coach’s attention after the game. You may want to volunteer to help the coach during the next practice.

Building your Child’s Confidence and Motivation

  • Focus on effort, not results. The message to “win at all costs” can put a lot of pressure on a child. Regardless of the final score, your child should feel proud that he or she played their best. Let children know when they had the right idea or made the right decision in the game even if it didn’t result in a score. Let your children know they are always winners in your eyes.
  • Accept mistakes. Children are still learning to master the skills of the sport and making mistakes is a valuable part of the learning process. Focusing on what they learned or what they can do the next time will help them make progress, which is what making mistakes is all about! To help your child stay motivated, point out areas in which you have noticed personal or team improvement since the last practice. This helps children keep mistakes in perspective.
  • Extra practice. If the coach brings up an area your child needs to work on, help them practice at home and offer lots of specific encouragement. Occasionally plan to stay after practice for an extra 10 or 15 minutes so your child can get a little extra time with their teammates. This encourages social development and team building.
  • Encourage the team. Cheer for the team, in addition to the individual players. This can help put the focus on the importance of all players working together.
  • Teach your child to honor their commitments. When a child commits to play a sport, they should take the commitment seriously. Sometimes a child will have a bad experience during a game or practice, and they will not feel like playing anymore. Few children will be the star athlete on every team. The benefits of setting goals and following through greatly outweigh any MVP status. Explain to your children that their coach and teammates are counting on them. If they are not able to actively participate, it is usually a good idea to have them dress in uniform and sit on the sidelines to show support for their teammates.
  • Accept your child’s decision to play or not to play. Once your child has completed the season, he or she may decide to try a different sport, or discontinue organized sports altogether. Sporting activities can be stressful and are not a good fit for every child. As a parent, you can support your child’s decision by finding out about other extracurricular activities that encourage social development and teamwork. Many children thrive in scouting programs or clubs that fit their specific interests (photography, books, chess or other board games, stamp or coin collecting, music, drama, chorus, arts and crafts, etc.).

Supporting Your Child’s Coach

  • Evaluate a coach before placing your child on a team. Practices can make or break a child’s interest in sports. Find a coach who runs a fun and engaging practice. A simple test is to examine the faces of the athletes to see if they are having fun.
  • Make early, positive contact with the coach. Introduce yourself, and be sure to keep positive lines of communication between yourself, your child and the coach open throughout the season. If a problem or concern does come up, it will be much easier to talk to the coach about it.
  • Recognize the commitment the coach has made. Coaches invest many hours outside of practices and games; being a coach shows their commitment to the sport and to your child.
  • Help the coach. During the season, don’t hesitate to volunteer. The coach may need help calling parents about a schedule change, bringing a cooler of drinks to the game, or collecting equipment after the game. Your effort will show your child you also have an interest in creating a positive experience.
  • Fill the coach’s emotional tank. When coaches do something you like, let them know about it. Coaching is a difficult job and most coaches only hear from parents when they have a concern about something. A sincere compliment goes a long way and will help the coach continue to give his all to the team.

For more information on parenting kids in sports, visit: www.youthsportspsychology.com.