Ninety percent of kids surveyed in a recent poll said that they wanted their parents at their games. One reported that he felt "important when there is an audience and Mom and Dad are in the bleachers." Another said she played better knowing that someone was watching her.
What kids don't like is when their parents make more noise than anyone.Asked what embarrasses then most, every single child surveyed listed parents hollering plays or instructions from the sideline or stands.Young players need to learn from their mistakes as much as from their successes. They only get confused if parents and coaches are constantly yelling plays. The last thing a child needs to hear is a parent giving coaching pointers or putting pressure on them to perform. What they want most is unconditional support and encouragement, not criticism. Just knowing their Mom or Dad is in the stands is enough to make a child happy.
Other ways to be supportive
Enthusiastic parents are vital to all youth sports programs. Being af an of the team and attending games is, however, only one way for a parent to be involved. If your child needs some space and asks that you refrain from attending her games for a while, or if you know that you just can't resist the urge to yell instructions, let her know that you care by volunteering in other ways. Offer to bring water and oranges,or organize the carpool or caravan to games or practices. Plan a pizza party or other gathering during the season. By being involved behind the scenes your child realizes that your interest in his sports is genuine.
Ignorance is bliss
As I watched one of my sons play indoor lacrosse on Sunday afternoon, I couldn't help but overhear what one father sitting directly behind me was saying to another father. "I love watching Billy's games," said one. "I never played lacrosse and don't have a clue about the rules or what's going on, so I'm not overly invested. It's just great to see them play in a pick-up league like this."
He had hit on the reason he was enjoying his son's games, and his son was enjoying having him at them: he didn't know anything about indoor lacrosse so he was not in a position to critique his son's performance(whoever came up with the saying, "Ignorance is bliss," was right!). Every parent I spoke with said the same thing: their sons wanted them to come to their lacrosse games. "It's not that way with his football games," one noted.
Unfortunately, most parents who have played the sport their child is playing, or have watched it on television, think they are experts on how it should be played. (Again, I reminded of an aphorism, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing."). Many can't resist the temptation to offer a running commentary on the game. Parents who have played a sport successfully (or twenty years later, think they did) have to be especially careful not to put any additional psychological stress on their child to follow in their footsteps. Parents need to show their support just by being at their child's athletic competitions, not as judges or commentators.
Brooke de Lench is Founding Executive Director of MomsTEAM Institute, Inc., Director of Smart Teams Play Safe, Publisher of MomsTEAM.com, author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (HarperCollins), and Producer/Director/Creator of the PBS documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer." Brooke is also a founding member of the UN International Safeguards of Children in Sports coalition.
She can be reached by email delench@MomsTeam.com, and you can follow her on Twitter @brookedelench.
Revised March 15, 2017