I am a sports parent. I am a ski mom (yes, a brave one), a hockey mom, a soccer mom, and a basketball mom. I like being a sports mom. I pride myself on my good sports-parent behavior and I am proud to say, I am usually, a mostly silent sports mom. My husband is also a sports parent. He’s a loud sports parent. He cheers, he yells and he reacts, but I am proud to say that because he has coached youth sports (soccer and hockey), and been properly trained to coach youth sports, he is also a hyper-aware sports parent. He knows his place and he generally sticks to it. He is the guy yelling “good effort” and “way to work it.”
We’ve all heard and seen examples of horrible sports parenting, featuring overly competitive moms and dads who seem to have forgotten that they are on the sidelines, not on the playing field. Snow sports are not immune. I once saw two dads almost come to blows at a J5 (9-10 year olds) USSA regional ski race. They were both jockeying for position in front of the timing board where I was working. Each of their sons had raced early and had positions in the Top 10 (this was a race of over 150 boys). When one dad got in front of the other, the now-in-the-back dad called him a “Nazi.” It went downhill rapidly after that.
I always wondered what their sons thought about their fathers after this episode. Did they feel their dads were proud of them for racing, or would they be proud of them only if they had a top-10 finish? What kind of pressure were these boys under at home? Were they racing for themselves or for their dads? Are they still racing today or did they burn out at the ripe old age of 11?
According to Trusted Sports, Inc., a Bend, Oregon based nonprofit organization which seeks to motivate kids to “thrive in life through sports,” 70% of youth athletes quit competitive sports by the time they are 13. I asked Brian Grossman, Executive Vice President at Trusted Sports why these kids are dropping out.
His answer included the following:
1. An over emphasis on competition at the expense of having fun;
2. The financial expense;
3. A poor experience with a coach;
4. Not getting playing time;
5. Losing interest; and
Brian went on to say that while competitive sports are not for all kids, there are many benefits to youth participation in sports. Kids who take part in sports benefit from a positive team environment and can work with adults who are positive role models. Sports can serve as a basis for learning important lessons in life such as hard work, commitment, teamwork and good sportsmanship. But whether of not these important lessons are learned is often dependent upon the behavior and actions of the adults who parent, coach and mentor young athletes.
So, say you, as a brave ski mom or dad, or maybe a hockey or soccer or baseball parent, want to help your son or daughter have the most positive sports experience he or she can.
What can you do? Brian’s answer:
1. Be positive on the sidelines;
2. Encourage your child to participate and have fun and to play for the love of the sport and the love of being on a team (not to win at any cost);
3. Don’t put undue pressure on kids to excel and “get a scholarship” (less than 1% of them will and even less than the less than 1% will make the US Ski Team); and
4. Encourage them to pick up a new sport if they get cut from the old one or grow tired of it.
Also, parents should ask their local sports organizations and leagues to ensure that coaches are well-trained and certified by an organization like Positive Coaching Alliance or the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS).
My guess is that you’ve heard most of this before. You probably have even lived through the good and the bad of youth sports with your kids and have your own strong opinions about how parents and coaches should behave. I bet it is also fair to say that for each of us who participated in competitive youth sports, there is a coach who stands out as a truly positive influence in our lives and another coach who was so negative that it drove us away from the sport. (As for our parents, well, we’ll have to forgive them. They didn’t know what they were doing and Trusted Sports wasn’t around to help them).
In the end, what I hope for my kids is that the positive experiences outnumber the bad and that they never feel embarrassed or humiliated by their parents’ behavior or words. I also hope that they never, ever hear me call another parent a “Nazi.”
More About Trusted Sports, Inc.
From Brian Grossman, Executive Vice President, Trusted Sports, Inc.:
“Trusted Sports, Inc. (TSI) was started as a cause-oriented enterprise with a mission to motivate kids to thrive in life through sports by inspiring, educating and uniting young athletes, parents and coaches. In 2009, TSI developed the High School Football Rudy Awards to recognize outstanding athletes – not because of their statistical performance, but because of their ability to inspire teammates, classmates and communities. These awards honor players who demonstrate the exemplary values of football legend Daniel ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger, the inspirational figure of the film RUDY. Last year, 396 incredible young athletes from 48 states were nominated by coaches, parents and teammates for this prestigious award, and generated over 2.9 million votes from fans across the country.
The Rudy Awards are operated in partnership with Trusted Sports Foundation (TSF), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity focused on removing barriers that prevent youth from participating in sports to get and keep Kids In The Game to empower athletes to live up to their full potential through positive sports experiences that form active, healthy habits for a lifetime.”
For more information on Trusted Sports, Inc. and to learn more about the Rudy Awards or the Kids in The Game initiative, please visit their website.
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