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I'm the assistant coach of my son's team this season, and
this group of boys is full of energy and silliness. They all seem to get
along, and they want to learn how to play together.
Sometimes they just want
to play Star Wars in the middle of a game with kids on both sides of the
field. They want to play the sport, but they also want to be little—that's a
wonderful combination, if you ask me.
Parental involvement and parental attitude play key roles in making sure that these benefits last.
Even better, their parents seem to genuinely enjoy watching
them play. At one point during the first game, I turned around to see every
parent smiling and cheering. A few were taking pictures. The positive energy
from the sidelines made for a great youth sports experience.
Sadly, it doesn't always work out that way. Although my kids
have been lucky with great teams and positive experiences, I often hear that
the competition on the sidelines is worse
than the competition on the field. Apparently, the race to success reaches beyond the classroom and into the world of youth
The benefits of youth sports are numerous. Kids learn to
work together. They learn sportsmanship. They get exercise while having fun
with friends. They learn a new skillset. They build resilience, and they learn
to cope with losing.
Parental involvement and parental attitude play key roles in
making sure that these benefits last. In short, how parents approach youth
sports can make or break the experience for the child.
However, when parents compete from the sidelines, kids feel increased
pressure to perform. Instead of building resilience in the face of small
failures on the field (an important life skill), kids become frustrated and
angry. Good sportsmanship fades away fairly quickly when kids feel the pressure
to succeed at all costs.
Positive sideline behavior models team spirit to kids. When parents make an effort to work together to support the team, children internalize the value of community and togetherness.
Kids can even experience anxiety when they feel pressure to
perform on the field. They might have trouble sleeping the night before a game
or withdraw from the sport entirely.
Kids often mimic comments made by parents. If parents make
disparaging comments about other players' abilities, children will
internalize and repeat those comments at a later date. This can negatively
impact team unity and team spirit. It can also lead to hurt feelings all
around. When youth sports stop being fun, kids burn out and quit.
When parents support their children from the sidelines,
children thrive. It's not that parents need to praise every move made on the
field or provide constant input. It's that their input should be positive in nature.
Positive sideline behavior models team spirit to kids. When
parents make an effort to work together to support the team, children
internalize the value of community and togetherness.
Some kids might stand out as more skilled, but all kids have
something to offer the team. When parents keep their sideline behavior in check
and choose to get to know each player on the team, they model the importance of
teamwork and finding strengths. They build kids up and teach kids the power of
building each other up.