Parents are excited about their kids’ activities, whether it be recitals, music performances, or little league games, parents shine with pride as their little ones perform. Learning effective ways to support your kids in sports (and other activities) has vastly important and far reaching effects for your child’s development. Generally, studies indicate that sports participation affect positive youth development. Here are five ways to be the most supportive version of yourself:
Choose a sport that complements your child’s abilities
Many sports require a high degree of hand-eye coordination. While other sports may require use of just hands, or feet, or speed, helping your child figure out which sport is a natural fit goes a long way towards supporting them. Additionally, being matched well will make your child perform better and give a boost in self-confidence. In that same vein, placing your child in a sport that isn’t a great fit, may cause frustration and undue pressure. That’s not to say a little bit of challenge or learning of new skills is out of the question – but it should be no to overwhelming as to become something your child begins to resent.
Emphasize effort and commitment
One of the best outcomes of kids playing sports is developing the habit of focusing effort and commitment. This helps kids develop a routine and get used to structure. When kids get used to routine, this provides stability and consistency (yep, just like sleep routines). You can support your kids in their activities by ensuring that they consistently attend practices and games. This habit will help your kids understand the value of commitment. It also requires consistent effort as most sports last for an extended period. Going through the process of habitually attending practice and games will help your child appreciate the routine of doing the same thing repeatedly until they begin to master it.
Encourage sports friends
Playing a sport is not all about the game. Kids make great, sometimes lifelong friends in their after school activities. This is even more important if your child isn’t playing competitively. Activities are an excellent environment to meet persons from different backgrounds and different cultures, and to give your little person critical life skills. Childhood friendships within a competitive environment adds a different dynamic. Encourage their friendships and bond-building by hosting before or after game get togethers or even just by carpooling. You can further support your kids in sports by facilitating these friendships through deliberate playdates and outings outside of game days. These groupings are an opportunity for lasting friendships.
Emphasize the importance of preparation
In our culture of instant gratification, we often forget the importance of preparation. You can support your kids in sports by emphasizing the benefits of preparation. This can be done by letting your kids know that just showing up on game day is insufficient. They need to prepare through attending practices and when necessary, even doing practice drills on their own time. This effort will not only benefit your kids’ sporting activities but is learned behaviour that will transfer to other areas of their lives. Perseverance is a life long skill that will take your little one far.
Celebrate all the wins
Some parents are former athletes and sports jocks who may be naturally competitive. This creates an atmosphere where celebration may only happen if your child wins a game. You can support your child in sports by celebrating all their wins. Simple things like the first time your child is part of the starting team, when they master a particular skill, or even being consistently early for practice. Once again, this isn’t only about sports, you’re supporting and rewarding positive behaviour and habits which will transfer to other areas of your child’s lives. This isn’t “everyone gets a ribbon” support – this is purposefully finding the little wins within the bigger picture, and celebrating those. For example, “I saw how you were a good friend to the kid on the other team who hurt themselves” or “I was really proud to see how you handled today’s loss. I know how disappointed you were and you were such a good sport”.
Kids’ sports are fun, engaging and time consuming. But like every other aspect of your kids’ lives, there is consistent overlap. Supporting your kids in sports gives you the satisfaction of sharing an activity with your kids, while helping them grow and develop. If you’re lucky, you may even get a college scholarship out of it!